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A Cancer Cure That Kills

Published: June 29, 2011

From snake oil to stem cells, charlatans and hucksters have and always will work diligently to separate people from their money no matter the damage caused. My last blog highlighted what I think to be the most outrageous pseudoscientific alternative treatment in use today, homeopathy. I would call the work of homeopaths laughable if not for the success of their widespread lies and the incredible damage being done as a result. While most of this damage is done to one’s wallet, there is a dangerous side effect to homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies don’t have any inherent danger, as there aren’t any active ingredients in homeopathic dilutions . The real danger in homeopathy comes from the fact that people undergoing homeopathic treatment might not seek legitimate medical attention, and suffer as a result.

This week I want to highlight another dangerous alternative treatment, faith healing. Now, before I move forward, a disclaimer: I’m not attacking faith, I’m attacking faith healing. A cancer patient should, by all means, visit their personal to seek advice and support for getting through a difficult time. But if that authority suggests that you visit a faith healer in lieu of seeking help from a doctor, you need to find a new church, mosque, temple, grove of trees, or whatever your chosen place of worship might be.

Realistically, I think the majority of faith healing is so limited in it’s reach that it shouldn’t pose much of a threat to gullible patients. However, there is a new group of faith healers making waves by taking a pseudoscientific approach to their healing, and making some incredibly outrageous claims. A group known as ThetaHealing is claiming that, for a hefty fee, they can teach you how to alter your brain wave cycle to a “theta” state, that allows you to commune with The Creator Of All That Is. With the help of this non-denominational deity, you will be able to instantly cure yourself of any ailment. ThetaHealing and it’s founder Vianna Stibal claim that their techniques can cure all types of cancer, HIV, and even regenerate lost organs and limbs.

Thousands of practitioners, known as ThetaHealers, can be found working in the US and Europe. They charge hundreds of dollars per session, and often push patients to receive multiple sessions. While their website claims that a great amount of healing can be done in a short amount of time, they also state that the number of sessions a patient will need is based on the individual patient, and how receptive their subconscious is to being reprogrammed. Reprogrammed being their own, rather appropriate, choice of words.

Dr. Edzard Ernst, professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exter and co-author of the book Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine, said that this company’s claims are “not supported by any kind of evidence” despite their ascertains. Dr. Ernst even went so far as to call ThetaHealing’s activities as “criminal.” I wholeheartedly agree.

A quick trip to ThetaHealing’s website was disturbing, to say the least. Masking themselves with an aura of scientific legitimacy, ThetaHealing describes its healing process in a scientific medium. Their primary claim is the usage of theta brainwaves to activate a “master cell” in the pineal gland in the brain. While this claim may sound rather sciencey, it is more akin to poorly researched 1980s sci-fi movie dialogue, than anything you would hear from a legitimate physician.

Here is a quick debunking of ThetaHealing’s core beliefs.

Theta wave patterns do exist in our brains and other mammals, it isn’t something made up by ThetaHealing. Unfortunately for them, theta brain wave patterns are associated with the hippocampus and its arousal through the activation of motor neurons during locomotion (like walking or running), and has nothing to do with the pineal gland.

Their second claim is that inside the pineal gland is a “master cell” that controls the functions of every other cell in our body. No mechanism of action is proposed, because this claim is completely made up. Cell communication is an incredibly complex procedure, thought by many scientists to be the limiting factor in the evolution of multicellular beings. While a single cell might be able to communicate with the cells directly adjacent to it, there is no way for a cell in our brain to single handedly direct our big toe to move. This is the reason why we have developed endocrine and nervous systems, providing mechanisms for cells throughout the body to communicate.

ThetaHealing goes on to explain that the human body contains 46 chromosomes, and that a “Youth and Vitality chromosomes” – responsible for the intuitive healing methods proposed by ThetaHealing – are located inside this “master cell.” Any person with a small background in biology can instantly realize just how incredibly incorrect this statement is. Our body doesn’t contain 46 chromosomes, rather every somatic cell in our body contains 46 chromosomes. Even if the “Youth and Vitality” chromosome were to exist, it would be found in every cell of the body, not tucked away exclusively inside our pineal glands.

The third aspect to their healing is what happens after the fake activation of the fake chromosomes inside a fake brain cell. This activation supposedly awakens what is referred to as “shadow DNA strands.” I’m not even going bother explaining what is wrong with this, only state that in the same paragraph they refer to amino acids as “sugars,” which they aren’t.

The incredible claims, jumps of logic, and fundamental misunderstanding of basic biology was instantly recognizable, and rather amusing to me. I’m sure the same is true for anyone with a basic background in science or the ability to use Wikipedia. Despite my amusement at the ridiculous nature of this company, ThetaHealing’s science-fiction approach to healing (I’ve decided that the term “pseudoscience” is too benign to describe this farce) has seen enough success at scamming unwitting people to warrant a BBC investigative report.

Call them frauds, snake oil salesmen, charlatans, or hucksters, it doen’t matter. The bottom line is that allowing these people to operate in our society unchecked is ludicrous. Companies such as ThetaHealing primarily aim to separate people from their money through deceit and lies, but there is a far darker truth to the nature of this sort of alternative “medicine.” It kills. Much like homeopathy, the danger from faith healing doesn’t come from any action taken by the practitioner, but rather the inaction taken by patients. ThetaHealing takes this inaction to an entirely new level. They claim to cure cancer or HIV with their methods. Our modern medical knowledge has allowed us to develop incredibly successful means of treating cancer or HIV through chemotherapy or antiretrovirals respectively. The stipulation to the success of these treatments, however, is their early administration in the progression of a disease. When a patient favors faith healing (or it’s cousin homeopathy) over visits to a traditional physician, they are delaying getting proper, proven treatment. With diseases such as cancer or HIV, this delay could be the difference between life and death.