By John J. Moelaert
"The art of medicine
consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease."
Some of the severest critics of modern medicine are often
doctors themselves. The practice of medicine is a tightly controlled
profession with almost no room for innovative ideas and lots
of disdain--if not outright persecution--for those who dare stray
off the conventional path. Any doctor who steps out of line faces
the risk of having his license suspended by the medical agency
thus empowered. When Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski developed a chemical
extracted from human urine and demonstrated its anti-cancer properties
in the seventies and eighties he was at first praised for his
work by the medical community.
However, once the Cancer Establishment realized the negative
economic impact his effective but inexpensive treatment
would have on the profits of the pharmaceutical industry, his
lab was shut down, some 200,000 documents were seized and he
was put out of business. Merely criticizing conventional medicine
can result in a doctor losing her license to practise medicine
as Dr. Guylaine Lanctot of Quebec found out after her book The
Medical Mafia was published in 1995.
Such extreme repercussions keep most doctors from speaking out
against the Medical Establishment. I found this out personally
while doing research for my book The Cancer Conspiracy which
was first published in June 1999 and is now in its fifth printing
(Click the CANCER link on this page).
I am privileged to have several progressive physicians among
my friends. Four of them helped me in my research: a family physician,
a radiologist, a neurologist and an oncologist. Each one made
me promise not to mention his name in my book or in any subsequent
talks or interviews. Clearly doctors have very little freedom
Conventional medicine has produced medical miracles such as organ
transplants and dismal failures such as thalidomide. In some
major areas such as cancer, treatment overall more often fails
than succeeds. In fact, in Canada and the US just over 60 per
cent of those who get cancer (not counting skin cancer) die of
it. Worse, treatment often hastens rather than prevents death.
For example, studies have shown that lung cancer patients who
undergo radiation therapy have a 20 per cent higher mortality
rate than non-radiated ones (Lancet, Summer '98).
Nor do physicians always practise what they preach. A McGill
University study showed that most Ontario doctors who prescribe
chemotherapy for terminal lung cancer patients said they'd refuse
such treatment for themselves or members of their family if they
had lung cancer.
It is often overlooked that the ultimate decision for any medical
treatment is not up to the physician, but should be decided by
the patient. Doctors have the legal and ethical obligation to
inform their patients of all the risks and benefits of any medical
procedure so that patients can make informed decisions. (See
Informed Consent in ARCHIVE ).
Medicine is not an exact science like mathematics. It is important
to realize that no doctor can heal a patient: only the body can
do that. Doctors can only help or hinder that process. There
is an inordinate degree of guesswork involved in the diagnosis
and treatment of disease and as a result countless mistakes--some
fatal--are made as the following demonstrates:
"Over a million patients are injured in US hospitals each
year, and approximately 280,000 die annually as a result of these
injuries. Therefore, the iatrogenic (doctor-caused) death rate
dwarfs the annual automobile accident mortality rate of 45,000
and accounts for more deaths than all other accidents combined."
(Journal of the American Medical Association, July 5, 1995, 274:29-34).
Put more graphically, the iatrogenic death rate is equal to about
three loaded jumbo jets crashing and killing everyone aboard
every two days!
As Dr. Bernie Siegel (Author of Love, Medicine and Miracles)
has said: "When you're ill, the most dangerous place to
go to is a hospital." For example, every year some two million
people get infections in US hospitals and some 15,000 of them
die as a result. Many others end up in hospital as a result of
incorrect prescriptions. (For Canadian figures divide the US
figures by ten to get an approximate estimate).
Things are not much better in Australia. According to the Australian
Department of Health eight per cent of hospital patients are
injured or die due to doctor or hospital errors. A study conducted
jointly by the Adelaide and Newcastle universities examined admissions
at 28 South Australian and New South Wales hospitals. The study
found that the medical profession is the third leading cause
of death in Australia as it is in the US. The study found that
half the hospital errors occurred during surgery, another 13
per cent were due to errors in diagnosis and 15 per cent were
the result of inadequate training, supervision or communication.
According to the study hospital patients 60 and older are at
Misdiagnosis is far more common than is generally realized. For
example, mammography produces between 15 and 20 per cent false
negatives. Patients are often first misdiagnosed and then treated
for and cured of a disease they never had in the
first place. Sometimes patients are diagnosed to have one disease,
while autopsy results later show they died of another. Most medical
mistakes are never revealed to patients. Doctors are masters
at covering their mistakes and each other. A friend of mine who
practises pediatrics in California told me about an experience
he had as a medical student which very graphically illustrates
the medical sleight of hand doctors sometimes perform. This is
"We were standing on the mezzanine floor of an operating
theatre, looking down on the surgical team below through slanted
plate glass windows. Absolute silence was expected and observed.
After the patient was prepped for the removal of a diseased kidney,
the surgeon was about to make the incision when one of the students
startled everyone by shouting 'wrong kidney!'"
"We just froze," my friend said. "You weren't
even supposed to whisper, let alone shout. But the surgeon calmly
looked up, then checked the x-rays. After the other side of the
patient had been prepped, he removed the diseased kidney and
that was that. Not a word of reprimand to the student who had
sounded the alarm."
"What if no one had said anything and the surgeon had made
the wrong incision?" I asked.
"The surgeon would have recognized his mistake as soon as
he would have seen the healthy kidney. He would then have removed
the diseased one."
"Yes," I protested, "but the patient would have
awakened with two incisions. How could the surgeon possibly have
explained that away?"
"Oh, that's easy," said my friend. "He would have
said after he had removed the diseased kidney he thought that
since the patient was under anesthesia anyway, this would be
a good time to check the other one, just to make sure it was
in good shape. The patient would never have known the difference
and probably have thanked the surgeon for his thoroughness!"
Sometimes medical mistakes are too big to be covered up. Here
are two well-documented cases of two Canadian women who were
1. Valerie Sahar, 50, was told in 1999 by her doctor that
a biopsy had shown she had breast cancer. It was decided to have
the breast removed as well as a portion of her underarm tissue
to be followed by radiation and chemotherapy. She headed for
the examining room so the doctor could check her other breast.
Ten minutes later her doctor said she didn't have cancer at all
and that her test results had been mixed up with those of another
patient. What if this mix-up had not been noticed? The woman
would have lost one breast--possibly two--and would have been
subjected to radiation and chemotherapy. If she would have survived
that she would have been told she was cured of the cancer she
never had! (Times-Colonist- Front Page Sept. 10, 1999).
2. This case is even scarier: Sheila Roy, 36, lost her marriage
and two years of her life as a result of misdiagnosis and unwarranted
medical intervention. In 1997 she was diagnosed as having pancreatic
cancer and was given one year to live. She underwent aggressive
treatment that included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Along the way her husband left her. She received 40 days of radiation
and was given high doses of the chemotherapy drug 5FU (Sometimes
referred to by doctors as 5 feet under since patients often die
of the "side-effects" of this highly toxic drug). Two
years after the initial diagnosis it was discovered that the
pathologist had made a mistake in interpreting test results.
Medical authorities admitted the young woman never had cancer.
It is now hoped she will not develop cancer as a result of the
radiation and chemotherapy she was needlessly and carelessly
subjected to. (Times Colonist- Front Page Sept. 15, 1999)
Note the proximity of the dates. Both women live on Vancouver
Island, British Columbia.
There are countless cases like these, but very few are ever
revealed to the public. In Canada's entire medical history only
one doctor has ever been convicted of criminal negligence. The
doctor involved was an anesthesiologist who during an operation
walked away from the patient to make a phone call. When he came
back, the patient was in shock and later died. It was one of
those rare cases that was too big to cover up.
The overall efficacy of modern medicine is alarmingly low
and health costs could be reduced to a fraction of present levels
if people would heed this statement:
"About 90% of patients who visit doctors have conditions
that will either improve on their own or are out of reach of
modern medicine's ability to solve." (New England Journal
of Medicine, Feb. 7, 1991).
That leaves about ten per cent where doctors can be effective.
E.g. hip relacements to restore mobility, laser technology to
improve eyesight and setting broken bones to facilitate proper
healing. The biggest single 'benefit' of a visit to a doctor
is the emotional comfort it provides to a patient, i.e. hope
that a prescribed treatment will solve a particular medical problem.
(Click NUGGETS on this page and read: Placebo:
The Miracle Drug by Dr. Andrew Saul).
In other words in most cases the end result of an illness
will be the same with or without medical intervention. This raises
a critical question: do most patients get better because of medical
treatment or in spite of it? It is ironic that the most effective
protection against disease is the least practised method: PREVENTION!
Why? Because treatment and diagnosis is a multi-billion
dollar industry, while prevention is difficult, if not impossible,
to prove and therefore difficult, if not impossible, to cash