Alt med ghouls

Bad Astronomy
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Sept. 25 2009 7:30 AM

Alt med ghouls

I was saddened to hear last week that actor Patrick Swayze had died. I get grief for it, but "Roadhouse" is a favorite movie of mine, and of course his skit with Chris Farley on SNL is a classic. I hear Swayze was a good man, and his death from pancreatic cancer is a loss to us all.

But some people are gaining from it; they're ghoulishly using his death to promote their own agendas, and in some cases it's truly horrid.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Take, for example, the website Natural News, an "alternative medicine" website which prides itself on promoting health threats like antivaccination nonsense and other provably wrong claims. They have published a particularly obnoxious and loathsome article that says Swayze's death was caused not by his cancer, but by his chemotherapy.

This is, to be quite clear, utter crap. The author, Mike Adams, goes on and on piling one awful logical fallacy on top of another. He makes a list of people who died "after chemotherapy", never talking about how chemotherapy saves thousands of lives every year. And even saying "after chemotherapy" is misleading. After all, everyone dies after being born, so why not say that the absolute biggest cause of death is birth?

He also leaves out the simple fact that if these people hadn't received chemotherapy, they'd have died sooner. And, of course, he doesn't say how many people die after trying "alternative" therapies.

But why let the facts get in the way of vitriol and propaganda? I could go on, but just go and read Skeptical Teacher for a very blunt and NSFW article on this.

Of course, not to be outdone in promulgating manure, Suzanne Somers decided to pipe up with what could be an award-winning quotation of bad thinking:

Somers, who has a book about cancer coming out next month, said: "Why couldn't they have built [Swayze] up nutritionally and gotten rid of the toxins?"

Hey, maybe because that doesn't stop cancer? Is that a good enough answer?

It's time to stop pussyfooting around this kind of dangerous medical garbage -- as Swayze said in "Roadhouse", it's time to not be nice.

Antiscience advice like this from Mike Adams, Suzanne Somers, Jenny McCarthy, and others can and will lead to people dying if they act on it. These people are dispensing medical advice that is complete nonsense. Detoxifying the body won't cure cancer, using herbs won't cure cancer, aligning your chakras won't cure cancer. If you have cancer, or know someone who has been diagnosed, please please please go to a board-certified and experienced doctor or oncologist. Don't listen to celebrities, and don't listen to alternative quacks.

Don't even listen to me. Listen to your doctor. Medical science -- stressing the word science -- is and will be your best bet to take care of yourself.

[Update : I forgot to add links to Orac, who has quite the opinion on Mike Adams and Suzanne Somers.]

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