Whilst in the main dismissing the alternativist treatments as he called them, and writing in a generally confident manner about his trust in the conventional medical paradigm, John Diamond would sometimes waver: “What if those denying alternativists were right? What if the truth was that no life had ever been saved by radiotherapy and that there was every chance that my cancer would be made worse by it being irradiated?
“What if the truth as pronounced by a couple of books was that the main effect of cancer surgery was to release stray cancer cells into the body, allowing them to set up home elsewhere? … I turned to the medical books for solace and got none.”
Talk with cancer patients and one soon discovers that many of them report that, although they have an uncomfortable gut feeling that there must somehow be a better way forward, they still find themselves returning to their oncologist for more of the same “uncomfortable” treatment. Why is this, when there are proven, non-conventional and non-harmful treatments readily available?
Surely, one significant factor is our hereditary submissive attitude to the medical orthodoxy and its archetypal symbolism – the white coat, the stethoscope, the years of knowledge represented in those framed diplomas. Every artifact speaks of us being in the hands of experts. And then, there is the added pressure that can be exerted upon the patient at the point of diagnosis by the cancer physician.
In his essay The $200 Billion Scam, Jeff Kamen reports on how a cancer diagnosis was delivered to Kathy Keeton, the late wife of Penthouse magnate Bob Guccione:
“I’m sorry,” she remembers her doctor saying. “It's a very rare form of the disease. It's the nature of this kind of cancer that it takes off at a gallop, and metastasizes quickly so we need to act quickly and get you started on chemotherapy at once. We have some of the best people in the world in this field. I urge you to let me get you into their expert care. There is no time to waste. This form of cancer is often fatal, and quickly so. Untreated, you have six weeks to live. We really must move aggressively with the chemo.”
Hazel recalls a similar experience: “Basically, I was in shock from the diagnosis. I was sitting there, with the doctor saying that this treatment was the best available and that it was actually a matter of life or death that I received it. My husband was sitting next to me, telling me that I needed to go along with it. I kind of went into a trance and although something didn’t feel quite right, I found myself nodding to chemotherapy.”
Most definitely, the power imbalance that exists in all doctor-patient relationships, (whence the term “shrink” in psychiatry) is a key agent in determining the direction of treatment. But there is another factor and a contentious one at that …
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