This is especially the case concerning parents' decisions to treat their children's diseases with alternative therapies over traditional, and often harmful, treatments. The most recent in a host of such cases involves a 16-year-old Virginia boy named Abraham Cherrix, who was diagnosed in August 2005 with Hodgkin's disease -- a cancer of the lymph nodes. After his initial diagnosis, Abraham submitted to chemotherapy, which made him feel sick and weak. His cancer went into brief remission before returning earlier this year, when he decided he would not undergo more chemotherapy, but rather try alternative herbal treatments. Abraham's parents supported their son's decision and began taking him to the Hoxsey Clinic in Mexico for treatments involving cancer-fighting herbs and an organic diet.
The story should end there. Abraham and his parents should be taking their son to the clinic in Tijuana, with no interference. However, the Virginia Department of Social Services decided to get involved, and asked the state court to require Abraham's parents to return him to a hospital in Virginia for conventional treatment, which would include stronger chemotherapy than he'd previously undergone, as well as radiation therapy. The court agreed and ordered Abraham's parents to give consent for their son to be treated with harsh chemo treatments at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk.
That's right: The court ordered his parents to give consent, which flies in the face of the spirit of "consent," which by definition involves a willing agreement between the consenting parties. Fortunately for their son's health, Abraham's parents refused, and an ongoing court battle began -- but for how long can Abraham's family fend off the courts seeking to subject their son to a "therapy" that comes with side effects ranging from pain and hair loss to vomiting and infections?
Take, for instance, the case of 13-year-old Katie Wernecke, a Texas girl diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in January 2005. After her parents took her to the hospital for what they believed was pneumonia, she was treated with chemotherapy, and doctors also wanted to give her radiation therapy. Her parents declined, citing possible complications such as stunted growth, an increase in breast cancer risk and learning difficulties. They opted to try an alternative therapy involving high doses of intravenous vitamin C, but before they got to try the much safer therapy, Texas Child Protective Services intervened.
Unlike Abraham's case, Katie was taken away from her parents after they were labeled "neglectful" by the state, and her mother was arrested and thrown in jail for taking Katie to hide at a family ranch to avoid the ordered "treatment."
On a June 9 episode of NBC's "Today Show," viewers saw a videotaped statement from Katie, who said, "I don't need radiation treatment. And nobody asked me what I wanted. It's my body."
Apparently, the state of Texas disagreed with the ownership of Katie's body -- a district court judge eventually ruled that the Werneckes would be allowed to treat Katie with the vitamin C treatments, but only after she underwent five days of court-ordered chemotherapy. What's worse, her parents weren't allowed to be with her during the chemo they'd fought so hard to avoid.
Enter Harry Hoxsey, founder of the "Hoxsey Method" with which Abraham Cherrix is attempting to treat his cancer. Hoxsey is the great-grandson of John Hoxsey, an American physician who discovered a remarkably effective cancer cure in 1840 by watching horses with cancer cure themselves by foraging for certain rare herbs.
Harry Hoxsey, a coal miner with no formal medical training, began promoting his great-grandfather's cancer formula -- which contained a number of herbs, including bloodroot, burdock, red clover, licorice root, pokeroot, barberry root, buckthorn, prickly ash, stillingia root and cascara -- in the 1930s. He also marketed a salve for external cancers, called an "escharotic," which essentially burns off external cancers. His treatments proved amazingly effective at curing cancer, and word of his cancer treatments spread. People from all over the country -- including "terminal" patients conventional doctors had given up on -- sought out his treatments, no matter where he was practicing, and a high number of them were successfully cured.
Hoxsey was not a doctor, and could not legally practice medicine -- even if he was offering genuine cancer cures -- so to stay in business, he partnered with various MDs throughout his life, letting them do the official "treatments" while he acted as "technician." Though he never claimed to be a licensed physician, he was arrested hundreds of times over the course of his life, mostly for practicing medicine without a license -- including 119 arrests between 1926 and 1931 alone. According to Ralph W. Moss' "Herbs Against Cancer," Hoxsey had even taken to carrying $10,000 in cash every day to bail himself out of jail.
At the height of his popularity in the 1950s, Hoxsey was operating a chain of cancer clinics in Texas, and had seven licensed physicians working for him. He'd earned a Doctorate of Naturopathy in Texas, and helped tens of thousands of patients cure their cancer without surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, using herbal treatments and escharotic therapies.
Why? Cliché as it may sound, they did it for political power. The AMA has historically been considered the "gold standard" of Western medicine -- a privilege that comes with vast control over what is and is not considered genuine medicine. Efforts to preserve and gain such political power have garnered the AMA a shady history rife with efforts to suppress natural and alternative treatments. For example, a small group of chiropractors won a landmark antitrust suit against the AMA in 1990 in the U.S. Court of Appeals 7th circuit, which ruled the AMA had violated the Sherman Act by "conducting an illegal boycott in restraint of the trade directed at chiropractors generally, and at the four plaintiffs in particular," This demonstrates the association's willingness to target entire alternative fields, as well as individuals within them.
Though a large part of the AMA's stated mission is to be "an essential force for progress in improving the nation's health," it was without a doubt Hoxsey's biggest enemy, and is largely responsible for driving him and his treatments out of the country. Morris Fishbein, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) -- the AMA's flagship medical journal -- from 1924 to 1949, particularly targeted Hoxsey and his therapy, labeling Hoxsey a "quack" while simultaneously refusing to study his therapies or their efficacy. Fishbein went out of his way to sully Hoxsey's name in JAMA publications, and was eventually found guilty of libeling Hoxsey in two 1947 suits. "Fishbein had written an 'excoriating editorial' in JAMA titled 'Hoxsey -- Cancer Charlatan.' He also co-authored an article in the Hearst newspaper chain's weekly newsmagazine, titled 'Blood Money,'" writes Moss in "Herbs Against Cancer." Without evidence, Fishbein's JAMA articles attacked Hoxsey's treatment, claiming it "ate into blood vessels" and killed patients, Moss writes.
The NCI helped eradicate the Hoxsey method from U.S. soil in a somewhat different manner -- by giving him hope that the government would finally investigate his treatment, only to let him down on more than one occasion.
In 1945, Hoxsey met with three congressmen at the NCI offices in Maryland, where NCI director R.R. Spencer laid out the details of what the institute would need to review Hoxsey's method. Hoxsey went back to Texas and compiled above and beyond what the NCI had asked for, only to be told that his information was too incomplete and fragmented for investigation. However, in 1947, the NCI asked him to resubmit the information he'd sent before, for reconsideration by new staff members at the institute. He sent it, and soon received a reply that his records were still inadequate for consideration, and no government investigation would occur.
However, Hoxsey's cancer cures were not entirely without government approval. Dr. John Heinerman writes in "Natural Pet Cures" that: "A Dallas judge ruled in federal court that Hoxsey's therapy was 'comparable to surgery, radium and x-ray in its effectiveness, without the destructive side effects of those treatments.' (Hoxsey) faced unrelenting opposition and harassment from a hostile medical establishment. The AMA, NCI, and FDA organized a 'conspiracy' to 'suppress' a fair, unbiased assessment of Hoxsey's methods, according to a 1953 report to Congress."
In spite of that court's approval, Hoxsey's clinics in Dallas were shut down in the 1950s, and he moved his practice to Mexico. Hoxsey died in 1974, and his nurse, Mildred Nelson, has carried the torch at the Tijuana-based Bio-Medical Center ever since, caring for patients such as Abraham Cherrix.
For example, red clover has long been used as an herbal remedy for cancer, infections, tumors and menopause symptoms. It also supports the immune system and the blood. Burdock fights skin disorders and cancer, and supports the liver, skin and immune system. Licorice root is used for a myriad of health conditions ranging from inflammation and arthritis to cancer and heart disease. It supports the immune system, the blood, and the function of the spleen.
Pokeroot has shown anti-cancer properties, especially for breast cancers. Similarly, bloodroot is a powerful fighter against skin cancer. Cascara is a natural treatment for leukemia and liver disorders, and supports liver and gallbladder function. Stillingia root also treats skin conditions and acts as a blood purifier.
Though Hoxsey's formula often uses broad combinations of powerful herbs such as red clover and bloodroot, as well as many others, his formula is adapted to specially fit each individual patient, adding or removing herbal components case-by-case. The Hoxsey method also incorporates a healthy organic diet, along with vitamins and immune stimulation. While official government studies have never been performed, other forms of honest evidence support the benefits and success of Hoxsey's method.
"Today substantial laboratory data indicates that the Hoxsey herbal tonic could have genuine value against cancer," writes Kenny Ausubel in "When Healing Becomes A Crime." Ausubel continues, "Thousands of patients believe it saved their lives. There is no dispute that the Hoxsey remedies for external cancer are effective. Over the course of this century, numerous prominent figures including senators, congressmen, judges, and even doctors have affirmed Hoxsey's reputed cures and repeatedly called for an investigation. Why, then, has it taken so long? The answer is buried in medical politics. It revolves around a fierce trade war fought over money as well as fundamental conflict of medical opinion. Its consequence has been the exclusion and outright suppression of Hoxsey as well as numerous other unorthodox cancer therapies."
Who suffers most from such medical bias and political lust? Sure, the alternative practitioners suffer, but so do countless Americans who are kept in the dark about natural, effective, safe treatments for diseases traditional practitioners treat with toxic chemotherapy and radiation -- which seem to kill the patients more often than save them. What's worse, the U.S. medical establishment seems to have convinced much of the country that its poisonous cancer "treatments" are the only option, and anyone who does not subject themselves or their children to it are criminals who must be punished.
"Since the early 1970s when President Nixon declared the War on Cancer, two trillion dollars have been spent on conventional cancer treatment and research, with the result that more Americans are dying of cancer than ever before," writes Walter Last in "The Natural Way to Heal: 65 Ways to Create Superior Health."
That's $2 trillion down the drain studying dangerous treatments that likely cause cancer as often as they temporarily delay its symptoms. Meanwhile, how much money does the FDA, AMA and NCI waste forcing holistic therapies like Hoxsey's out of the country? Today, such agencies have the public convinced that anyone seeking alternative therapies for serious diseases like cancer is misguided, uninformed and naive, and must be forced to submit to conventional treatments ostensibly for their own good, even if it is against their will.
A foundational principle of the United States is the freedom of its citizens to choose what is best for them, including how best to treat disease. With cases like Abraham Cherrix and Katie Wernecke seeing increasing media coverage, perhaps Americans will begin to realize how close they are to losing their health freedom. Medical agencies have already won many of the health freedom battles by successfully driving alternative therapies from U.S. soil, but it is far from too late for such offenses to be reversed. Americans may yet re-win their right to be in charge of their own bodies, regardless of the medical political scheming of the AMA, FDA and NCI.
Perhaps Abraham Cherrix says it best: "I think it's my body. I can choose what's best for my body. If I don't have the right to do that, then I don't have any rights at all anyway."