Alongside honorable complementary practices proliferate bizarre and dangerous treatments that alienate patients from medicine and common sense. Katia, suffering from breast cancer, understood this too late. Testimony and investigation.
She was a luscious, generous girl who took full advantage of life, a vegetarian who feasted on chocolate nuns and simmered small organic dishes, an artist with a wandering soul who read her future in the stars and liked to flush out magic in the greyness. to exist. Katia B., photographer, believed she could triumph over the disease by taking side roads.
“A few months earlier, we had detected innocuous cysts, says her friend Françoise A. She had refused to have surgery and had been treated with alternative medicine, mud baths, fasts, and her cysts had disappeared. . It ruined everything. “When in 1997 – Katia was 55 years old – a mammogram revealed breast cancer, she refused to do a biopsy and to undergo “the law of the scalpel dictated by butchers”. “She had a sublime chest, it was her pride, continues Françoise. No need to touch it! She had this absurd belief that she could outsmart cancer. Neither operation nor chemotherapy, she consults a well-known astrologer in Paris, Lina T., who also practices hypnosis and regression therapies. “She kept her in the illusion, accompanied her in her desire not to be operated on” and, above all, she put her in touch with her network of healers. Katia first consults a practitioner from Pau, stripped of the order of doctors, who gives her injections with mysterious content, then a Chinese woman from the 13th arrondissement of Paris, who prescribes herbal teas, plants and acupuncture, before landing at Patricia K., who treats it with light vibrations. Katia has only followed a path taken by thousands of people disappointed by traditional medicine.
“There are about forty thousand seers and healers in France, estimates Jean Vernette (1), doctor of theology, delegate of the episcopate for questions concerning sects and new beliefs. While some use their gifts of intuitive psychology to help their neighbors, others take advantage of it to control fates or practice the illegal practice of medicine. It’s easy for charlatans to make themselves known: a plaque at the bottom of the building, an ad in a freebie distributed in health food stores or organic markets, and voila. The iridologist detects a woozy gallbladder in the back of the eye; the chromotherapist makes life see orange to drive away boils and slips a bottle of colored sand under the pillow to rebalance the energies; the lithotherapist sticks a turquoise on the chest to lower cholesterol; etc. As for jaded antibiotics, they can be reassured: the urinotherapist will prescribe them a glass of pure urine in the morning on an empty stomach to fight the infection.
1- Author of “New Therapies” (Presses de la Renaissance, 1999).
“Patients can take perlimpinpin powder, tempers Professor Simon Schraub (2), director of the Paul-Strauss cancer center in Strasbourg. Provided they do not let go of their medical treatment and be wary of the possible toxicity of the products offered by alternative medicine. You have to be particularly vigilant with serum injections and with certain Chinese plants. »
In Nice, last November, a complaint for “poisoning” was filed with the prosecution by the families of three female victims of Aristolochia fangchi and Stephania tetandra. These Chinese plants, which they ingested as part of a weight loss treatment, led to kidney failure and urinary tract cancer. “Alternative” medicines are sometimes aggressive, even dangerous.
Within the National Cancer League, Françoise May-Levin, an oncologist, created discussion groups for patients and their relatives, and wrote a brochure on “soft, alternative and parallel medicine”. “I have nothing against Tibetan mushrooms, as long as they are not poisonous or ruinous. The husband of one of my patients goes into debt to bring in shark cartilage from the United States…” Is it okay reasonable, in the midst of the mad cow crisis, to follow the Wobe Mugos method, which mixes pancreatic enzymes from beef and calf thymus, or that of Faktor AF2, offering a formula based on extracts of spleen and lamb embryo? Or to take ampoules of laetrile, imported from the United States by circuitous circuits, composed of extracts of apricot kernels and which have proven to be toxic? “An unproven practice can become dangerous, especially when ‘it leads the patient to suspend his current treatment,’ warns Dr. May-Levin.
2- Author of “Magic and Reason” (Calmann-Lévy, 1987, unavailable).
Katia, she will purely and simply refuse to undertake chemotherapy despite the pleas of her friends. “Her breast had turned red, it had taken on the appearance of a cardboard box, her arm was elephantine”, continues Françoise. She suffered martyrdom, screaming at night. Finally, she agreed to take morphine pills but, before swallowing them, she passed them under the pendulum of Patricia K. who thus decided on the dosage, often in contradiction with that prescribed by the oncologist. It’s hard to understand such blindness. Did Katia sin by excess of pride? “For some women, the very idea of mutilating a breast is unbearable, it’s tearing their femininity away from them”, explains Delphine Guérard, clinical psychologist at ADFI (see box opposite). Admittedly, there is favorable ground, a predisposition to the irrational and to superstition, but it is a cliché to think that it is the most fragile beings who join a sectarian group. We are all fragile at some point in our lives. So meeting someone with whom you are in perfect resonance can lead to a relationship of influence. As for suffering, it is often valued: the more one suffers, the more chance one has of being miraculously cured. »
Transported to the emergency room of the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, Katia finally accepts chemotherapy. Too late: the remission is short-lived. She will fight with courage before being carried away by her cancer last September. “Caught in time, she could have been saved”, indignantly her brother François. Mad with anger and pain, he shouted their four truths to the charlatans who cheated on his sister, even considering filing a complaint. “When patients are informed, judges are reluctant to convict,” observes Simon Schraub. People have asked me to testify in their lawsuit against their sister’s healer. Her magnetic passes had not saved her from cancer. The judge dismissed them, because she was an adult and consenting. For Professor Schraub, the doctor must know how to oscillate between “magic and reason”. “I hope I am not mistaken in saying that the French medical world has evolved. Today, it is the duty of doctors to learn about alternative medicine. If an anxious patient mentions the possible use of an alternative treatment, it is essential to establish a dialogue rather than pointing the finger at it by opposing arguments based on a priori. Can’t a doctor worthy of the name be both biologist, therapist, psychologist – in fact, a great shaman – for the good of the patient? »
DANGER: unmistakable clues
It’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff in the face of the abundance on offer, but solid common sense and a healthy curiosity should help distinguish honest professionals from wind merchants. Above all, do not hesitate to ask questions.
There is danger when:
• He tells you he has a gift.
• He claims to cure everything.
• He asks you not to divulge anything to your loved ones concerning the treatment he recommends and the relationship he has with you.
• He advertises in specialized newspapers.
• He asks you for astronomical fees.
• It encourages you to give up any other treatment, in particular allopathic.
DEFENCE: Jeanine Tavernier: “Common sense remains the best antidote”
The president of the ADFI (1) returns to the role of this Association for the defense of the family and the individual which, since 1982, has been waging war on sects in France.
Do you get a lot of calls reporting medical quacks?
• Cent per day in Paris on the theme: “My daughter takes little pills, I’m sure she’s part of a cult. We try to calm the delirium. We don’t hunt witches. It is not by making dubious amalgams that we will be able to fight effectively against sects. We have nothing against alternative or alternative medicine. It must be admitted that the most sectarian are sometimes allopathic doctors.
Vigilance vis-à-vis the gurus is it not greater in France than in many other Western countries?
• A tax adjustment terminated the activities of Narconon, a subsidiary of Scientology which claimed to fight drugs and rehabilitate addicts; the IVI sect (Initiation to Intense Life), led by Yvonne Trubert, which boasts of curing all illnesses thanks to harmonisations, has often hit the headlines; many scammers are blocked for illegal practice of medicine, while others fail to break into France. This is the case of Ange Albert, a sect in Luxembourg, which prescribes injections of sauerkraut juice. This did not please the French, more fond of vinified grape juice! Common sense remains the best antidote to cults.
1- T.: 01.47.97.96.08. Internet: www.unadfi.org