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The Kil Report
The Kil Report: Alternative Medicine,Scientific Method, Evil Skeptic, Scams, Fraud, Hoaxes, Critical Thinking, Enforma
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Alternative Medicine and the Death of Candace Newmaker

By David Glück
Posted on: 4/5/2002

Quack medicine goes way too far when it kills children incapable of giving informed consent.

By now, most of you have heard of the case of Candace Newmaker, the little girl who was killed by her therapist in an attempt to heal her and help her bond with her adoptive mother using a method called “rebirthing.” The principle behind the treatment is to reproduce the womb and birth process. Wrapped in a sheet, pushed with pillows and taunted, Candace was to fight her way out of the sheet and be “reborn.” (In the real world of childbirth, the baby doesn’t have to fight to be born but is pushed out by her mother with the help of contractions, usually with someone there to assist in extracting the newborn. Psychotherapists have debunked rebirthing.) Several times the girl said she could not breathe and was going to die. She was good for her word.

The death of the ten-year-old girl at the hands of her quack therapist and an associate, both of whom have just been convicted for child abuse resulting in death, is just the tip of a New-Age iceberg that promotes unproved therapies and medicines. The convicted therapist testified that she learned rebirthing from “New Agers.”

The New-Age movement has in some way spawned or promoted rebirthing. Recovered memory therapy, psychic surgery and a host of food supplement cures, such as laetrile, homeopathy and ephedra, all have at least some history of disastrous results. In cases of homeopathy and psychic surgery, we will never know just how many people, usually acting against their physicians’ advice, have died because they chose these medically discredited methods for treating serious illness and injury.

A few months ago I attended the movement’s biggest annual event, “The Whole Life Expo,” in Los Angeles. There were the usual silly exhibits like the ladies selling “fairy water,” the man with the “magnetic (bathing) cap,” the vibrating “eye massager” and all the samples of green stuff to drink, which made my girlfriend happy. But, I also found some very scary stuff.

One group promoted the idea that AIDS does not exist. Many people sold “natural” cancer cures. I wondered if the folks in one booth selling a natural cancer cure imagined that the folks in the next booth were selling a quack cure. Since all of the approaches to curing cancer at these booths are subject to the same standard of proof for their claims, i.e. none, my guess is that they considered the competition just that — only competition.

The New Age tends to be uncritical of most claims as long as they are alternative. Infighting does exist, as well as the flavors of the month. (Last year it was the miracle tonic Noni Juice. This year it’s structured water… or whatever.) In general, though, all the products must be natural and in some way unrecognized by the medical and pharmaceutical establishment because of a conspiracy to hide the truth from the general public. Why? Because legitimizing the miraculous cures and procedures would cut into the medical industry’s profits. Ironically, these same people love to cite studies done by mainstream physicians and scientists, but they then misrepresent the findings. They also cite ones that have been criticized for procedural reasons or didn’t hold up to peer review and, most often, those simply done by their own unqualified researchers.

Quack medicine is not a new thing; however, the rising popularity of alternative medicine championed by a New-Age, anti-science sentiment is becoming pervasive. For example, St. John’s Wort is in some soft drinks that your children can buy at any market, despite the fact that St. John’s Wort can react badly with other medications.

If any good comes from the rebirthing tragedy in Colorado, I hope it is that people will now view the claims of medical practitioners outside the mainstream with at least some degree of skepticism.

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