There are many ways to deal with new ideas. One would be to welcome them with open-minded inquiry. Another might be to stigmatize the purveyors of “heretical” notions that dare to shake the status quo and perhaps threaten the egos (and fortunes) of the status quo keepers.
In other words, shoot the messenger. The history of medicine is rich with examples of great messengers who did get shot! And, unfortunately, the practice continues today. Here are just a few examples:
Ignaz Semmelweis, M.D.
One of the more bizarre stories concerns Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, a bright, young Hungarian doctor who in the early 19th century became an administrator at the Vienna General Hospital, the main teaching hospital for the University of Vienna Medical School. He was extremely troubled by the fact that women who came to the “lying-in” clinic to give birth were dying of childbed fever at rates that far exceeded that of women who had their babies at home.
After painstaking investigation, Dr. Semmelweis came to the conclusion that the problem could be solved by simply requiring doctors to wash their hands before helping women in labor. Childbed fever, he realized, was the result of lack of good sanitary procedures, e.g., the then common practice of doctors going directly from their classes dissecting corpses to delivering babies with only a wipe of their hands on their bloody black coats.
When Dr. Semmelweis set up bowls of a chlorine solution for hand washing before deliveries, his colleagues and staff found the whole idea ridiculous and they ignored his instructions. As he tried to disseminate his ideas in Vienna and other cities in Europe (as childbed fever was a problem in most hospitals throughout the continent), he was vigorously chastised not only for his suggestion, but for not submitting his findings in the proper format to the proper journals of the day or for not expressing himself in the most eloquent language (Semmelweis was a Hungarian of simple origins and values and so had never striven to master the “Hoch Deutsch” or “Proper German”).
Ignaz Semmelweis died in his late forties, an extremely frustrated and dispirited man. It was a generation or so later before the washing of hands by doctors became de rigueur in all hospitals. Today, of course, childbed fever is essentially non-existent.
James Lind, M.D.
In the 16th century it was first observed that scurvy — a scourge of unknown causes that was a common cause of death — could be cured by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. The disease was especially common among sailors out at sea for long periods of time. When in 1753 Dr. James Lind, a British naval surgeon, wrote a book based on his studies of the fresh food cure, the British Admiralty, regarding his ideas as completely outlandish, shelved Lind’s solutions. Forty-eight years later the Admiralty decided to try giving daily rations of fresh limes to all sailors at sea and the disease disappeared from the British Navy!
But the British Board of Trade remained skeptical. The idea that something as simple as limes for such a dread illness apparently appeared suspect. They refused to follow the Admiralty’s example. It wasn’t until 70 years later in 1865 — after observing the absence of scurvy among Navy seamen, while deaths of merchant seamen continued — the Board finally passed a regulation requiring daily limes for the merchant marine!
Since scientists today have determined that Vitamin C is the most active ingredient in lime juice, it is commonly believed that Vitamin C deficiency is the cause of scurvy. But there are additional elements in fresh foods besides a single vitamin that are important, as Dr. Lind’s work suggests, and that science has perhaps yet to discover. In earlier times, Indians brewed tea made from pine needles that saved scurvy suffering sailors who had arrived on American shores.
Dr. Carlos Findlay
In the 1870’s Dr. Carlos Findlay, a Cuban physician, did extensive research into the cause of yellow fever. Finally, he concluded that the disease was the work of the mosquito. But when he attempted to share his findings with his colleagues, he was literally laughed off the medical meeting platform.
Years later, Dr. Walter Reed, a U.S. Army pathologist and bacteriologist, realized that Dr. Findlay’s work may have merit, so he assembled a team of researchers to test the theory at an Army garrison in Havana, Cuba, where yellow fever had broken out. After several researchers and volunteers were bitten by infected mosquitoes and died, the theory was proven! In 1901 the Army took action to remove the cause — the aforementioned mosquito — and within 90 days yellow fever disappeared. Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland was named as a memorial to Dr. Reed and his work; Dr. Findlay and his contribution is recalled as a mere footnote.
Sir William Arbuthnot Lane, M.D.
Another interesting case was that of Sir William Arbuthnot Lane, M.D., a highly respected physician/surgeon in early 20th Century England who was knighted for his great surgical skills and innovations. He enjoyed a worldwide reputation for his mastery of the surgical art, traveling to the United States and the Continent to demonstrate his techniques to other doctors anxious to learn.
Fairly early on in the course of his work Dr. Lane discovered that after an operation removing a diseased part of the colon of a wheelchair-bound rheumatoid arthritis patient, the patient recovered from the debilitating joint disease. Not one to jump to conclusions without thorough understanding, Dr. Lane quietly began to investigate how it could be that surgery in one part of the body could cure a problem in a seemingly unrelated area. Ultimately he concluded that because of constipation or poor bowel function “poor drainage,” as he termed it, a colon could become loaded with putrefied material and thereby, pollute other parts of the body via the bloodstream causing many kinds of chronic degenerate conditions.
When the good doctor finally presented his conclusions to his esteemed colleagues, they thought the whole idea that what was going on in the colon could have anything to do with problems in other parts of the body was absolute bonkers! In short, they thought the brilliant surgeon had gone senile! Dr. Lane was forthwith discredited and the wisdom of his long distinguished career ignored.
The sad part of this story is that the medical community has yet to adopt Dr. Lane’s warning that poor elimination of waste is responsible for many of the diseases of civilization. The concept of detoxification as an integral part of a comprehensive biologically sound healing program — which F.A.C.T. has supported for nearly half a century — has yet to penetrate the orthodox consciousness, preferring the rush to discover “miracle” drugs and assorted “magic bullets” to alleviate the ills of mankind.
Max Gerson, M.D.
Max Gerson, a doctor who immigrated to the U.S. to escape Hitler’s Germany, documented his work with cancer patients in a book entitled A Cancer Therapy — Results of Fifty Cases. He treated patients successfully by focusing on the well being of the host instead of excising or destroying the malignant cells. His primary tools to help the body repair the imbalance that was causing the production of malignant cells were nutrition and detoxification.
When Dr. Gerson tried to encourage the medical establishment to examine his methods, he was met with harsh criticism and harassment. Today with the incidence of cancer rising at epidemic levels and the “cure” still illusive (as perennial fund-raising efforts attest to), the prevailing orthodoxy has yet to consider his work worthy of careful clinical study. Dr. Gerson died in 1959, but many of his patients are still alive today to celebrate him.
Samuel Epstein, M.D.
More recently, there are numerous examples of the medical establishment’s closed mind set. Dr. Samuel Epstein (1926-2018), was professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Illinois Medical Center and author of several books includingThe Politics of Cancer. He spoke out frequently about the need to focus on correcting the causes of cancer. He compiled extensive documentation implicating environmental pollution in the tremendous increase in cancer that has occurred since the growth of chemical industries after World War II (“Better living through chemistry.”).
Instead of an open-minded attitude toward his work, National Cancer Institute’s response, as Dr. Epstein said, was to “vilify me personally.” Though Dr. Epstein persisted undaunted in speaking his mind, the pattern of attacking the person instead of dealing with the ideas remains all too alive and well. Nonprofit activist organizations have been increasingly vocal on the need to reduce toxic environment chemicals, but the link between pollution and disease remains scantily addressed on the national level, and mightily fought against on the corporate front.
Peter Duesberg, Ph.D.
Dr. Peter Duesberg — an extremely well-credentialed scientist/professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at UCal-Berkeley, elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1986 for his landmark genetic mapping of retroviruses, recipient of the prestigious seven-year Outstanding Investigator Grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — was, as he puts it, the “darling” of the medical establishment until he challenged the HIV-causes-AIDS hypothesis on the basis of his experience with retroviruses. Soon he became the object of constant ridicule and attack by Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief media mouthpiece for National Institutes of Health (NIH), the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and others. Duesberg’s research grant was not renewed and to date, though still teaching at UCal- Berkeley, he has been blacklisted from obtaining sufficient grant funds for his research..
Duesberg believes that AIDS is not a viral infectious disease, but rather is due to an immune breakdown brought about by destructive lifestyle habits, particularly overuse and misuse of recreational and prescription drugs. He continues to write and speak out about the need for a broader approach to treatment other than lethal drugs like AZT. After billions of dollars and years of research utterly failing to cure AIDS as a viral problem, wouldn’t it be wise to try some new ideas and judge them according to their own merits, particularly when they come from so impressive a source? Or must we wait another generation or so after countless more deaths, suffering and dollars to look seriously into the logic of courageous men like Peter Duesberg? (Editor’s Note: In our long years at F.A.C.T., we have known many AIDS patients who, rather than take the AIDS drug protocol which can have devastating side effects and lead to lifelong disability, followed the Biorepair program to build back their immune systems and successfully achieve long-term health.)
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Caution is, of course, important. F.A.C.T. has always operated under the principle that a bandwagon of new ideas should not be immediately jumped upon. Careful examination, sometimes involving years of investigation and patient feedback, may be necessary to decide the merits or demerits.
But caution is very different from intransigence, and vilification has no place in the scientific arena of fair, open-minded investigation. Many of our current medical protocols were paved with formerly “off-the-wall” ideas. Let us hope in the years ahead that decent men and women with fresh ways of looking at difficult problems will receive a more open-minded hearing in the hallowed halls of medicine than they did in the musty corridors of yesteryear — and today!