Quackery in the Twenty First Century

I’ve been following the case of ‘The Wellness Warrior’, Jess Ainscough, for some time now. She eschewed conventional remedies for her epithelioid sarcoma (cancer), taking on a constellation of alternative remedies (including the infamous Gerson Protocol) and championing ‘natural’ living as a way to live healthily and survive. She built up an impressive commercial empire. On February 26th she died.

The story is heart-wrenching. She was both victim and agent of quackery. I spend my time reading about men and women who, in the nineteenth century, succumbed to the seductive claims of alternative practitioners and in doing so died without palliation. It is all the more tragic that this tendency continues, even in the midst of viable (if not always curative) alternatives. It speaks to the power of cancer as a disease and as a diagnosis. It is an alarming testament to the inhumanity of people who prioritise financial gain over care and compassion. It also perhaps suggests a failure not only on the part of programmes to advance healthcare literacy, but also on the part of orthodox oncologists to take the anxieties of their patients seriously.

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