Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hoxsey: When Healing Becomes a Crime

I'll just begin by quoting from the back jacket of the DVD I watched last night, "In 1924, Harry Hoxsey claimed a cure for cancer, herbal formulas inherited from his great-grandfather. Thousands of patients swore the treatment cured them, but the medical authorities branded Hoxsey the worst quack of the century. So began a medical war continuing to this day."

It all started when the great-grandfather's horse was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Hoxsey's great-grandfather put the horse out to pasture to die. He observed the horse eating plants not normally eaten, and when the horse's cancer disappeared, he studied the plants and their history. Native Americans and early botanists had spoken and written that some of these cured disease and cancer, thus the formula was derived.

I remember reading how chimps eat medicinal plants when ill, in Carl Sagan's book I previously reviewed in this blog. I can imagine a horse doing the same.

The documentary will go back in medical history to the time when some doctors wanted to cure the symptoms using surgery, while others wanted to heal the patient with love, hope and herbal medicines. The former's patients often died from the "cure", the latter from the "aliment". To this day, many people are frustrated by the dominant medical practices, some of which prove lethal themselves, and often lack in the kindness and compassion that makes up a quality life.

To hear Hoxsey tell it, the American Medical Association waged war on him (and the documentary tells of gunshots, court cases, numerous arrests, and the shuttering of clinics in 17 states). Hoxsey claims that after studying his formula and patient records, the AMA offered to buy his formula. Hoxsey insisted that part of the purchase contract include a provision that the treatments be available to those in need without regard for ability to pay, which the AMA refused to accept. They then branded his treatment "quackery."

Twice, juries found Hoxsey not guilty of quackery, and found that his treatment did indeed cure cancer. Today, one of the three components in his herbal formulas, a burning red salve that eats flesh is considered by the medical community to cure cancer ... just as excision or destruction by radiation would cure cancer (though the radiation treatments can actually induce new cancer at the same time it destroys the old one).

During the battles, not only was Hoxsey found innocent, he also won a libel case against the AMA Journal editor. The AMA Journal makes big bucks advertising "accepted" medicines. During the trial it was disclosed that the Journal editor had failed anatomy in school and had never seen a patient in his life. He resigned in disgrace.

There is a more in-depth book by the same name, by the filmmaker. As one botanist pointed out, "If some weeds in the back yard could cure cancer, the business of medicine wouldn't want you to know that." After all, there are more people employed in the anti-cancer profession than people with cancer. Medicine is big business, and big business does not always have a heart or soul.

No comments: