Quack Doctor Treating Cancer With Baking Soda Sues Skeptic For Questioning Her Cancer Treatment Methods

from the playing-the-'batshit-crazy-German-law'-wildcard dept

Very little attracts legal threats faster than someone calling a quack a quack. If it energizes tap water like a duck and promotes off-label use of dangerous drugs like a duck, it's probably a duck. The legal history of "alternative" medical practices is littered with cease-and-desist orders and failed lawsuits. The legal present is just as cluttered.

Blogger/skeptic Britt Hermes could have gone down the road to quack infamy. She was on the "naturopathic" career path when she came to the realization the whole things was horseshit. Rather than exploit the horseshit to make sick people sicker, Hermes decided to let the world know just how much horseshit her former colleagues were peddling.

One of her targets is Colleen Huber, an Arizona naturopath who is in the process of duping cancer patients out of their health, if not their lives. Here's what Hermes has to say about Huber:

Colleen Huber does not use conventional chemotherapy or radiation. She treats cancer with intravenous baking soda, vitamin C, and other “natural” substances, while instructing patients to cut out sugar from their diets. She thinks sugar feeds cancer.

Steven Novella, who has stared down lawsuits filed by angry quacks, has more to say about Huber's dubious treatments and even more dubious "science."

[Huber's clinic] specifically states that they do not treat their patients with chemotherapy or radiation. Further, they appear to discourage standard treatment as evidenced by this statement on their website:

Your best opportunity is to begin the natural treatments before the conventional treatments (chemo, radiation, etc.) sicken and weaken you and ultimately strengthen the disease. Many of the patients who opted for only natural treatments never even got sick and saw no side effects.

So in their view chemotherapy strengthens the cancer. Meanwhile they recommend implausible treatments that are not evidence-based. David Gorski has already done an excellent job reviewing the literature on vitamin C and cancer – bottom line, it doesn’t work.

Huber likes to claim her research backs up her outlandish claims. But as Hermes has pointed out, there's no way her research is ever going to be questioned, considering Huber's position gives her the power to grade her own papers.

Nowhere in any of her “research” that I could find did she write that she obtained written, informed consent from her patients/research subjects. Nor did she write that her “research” was approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov. These are fundamental ethical requirements for research on human subjects.

But don’t worry, Colleen Huber is a founding member of a naturopathic Institutional Review Board that has apparently approved her research. The board, which also oversees several other naturopathic organizations, including the Naturopathic Oncology Research Institution (NORI), was established in 2010, and from what I can tell, was registered with the FDA in 2013. This registration is legally required in order to approve research on human subjects. According to the IRB’s meeting minutes from November 8, 2013, the first study approved was a study on an herbal gel for cold sores. But Huber says she started her research in 2006…before her IRB was formed.

What comes next is unsurprising. (You did read the headline, right?) Huber didn't like having her horseshit exposed and sent a cease-and-desist to Hermes last fall. Hermes, secure in her conclusions and statements, ignored the C&D. Huber has now taken the next step and is suing Hermes for factually reporting on Huber's dubious… everything.

Arizona naturopath Colleen Huber is suing me in Germany for defamation over my opinions about her so-called natural cancer treatments and research. The lawsuit was filed in Kiel, Germany (where I live) on September 17th, 2017. This legal action came four weeks after Huber’s lawyers sent me a cease and desist letter that demanded I remove a blog post about Huber and pay Huber’s legal fees. My lawyer responded that allegations laid out in the letter were not correct and therefore, I would not comply. I believe Huber is attempting to stifle my right to freedom of speech with this SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation).

The first sentence of Hermes' post spells trouble for the naturopath-turned-skeptic: Germany is not a great place to defend critical speech. Defamation is a criminal offense in Germany, rather than a civil offense. A lawsuit can result in criminal charges, fines, and prison sentences. Truth is still a defense against defamation claims, but somehow the German government still manages to secure over 20,000 defamation convictions every year. And, of course, there's no such thing as an anti-SLAPP law in Germany, meaning Hermes must foot the bill for legal fees defending herself from Huber's transparent attempt to silence a noisy critic.

Fortunately, Hermes has secured one of the best for her legal representation. Dr. Daniel Kötz comes highly recommended by none other than Marc Randazza and is the only European member of the First Amendment Lawyers Association. She has also set up a crowdfunding page for her defense against Huber's attempt to have "might" triumph over "right." Hopefully, this will be dispensed of cheaply and quickly and Huber can go back to having her "medical" practice thoroughly and factually disparaged by actual medical professionals and well-qualified skeptics.


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 9:21am

    Colleen Huber does not use conventional chemotherapy or radiation. She treats cancer with intravenous baking soda, vitamin C, and other “natural” substances, while instructing patients to cut out sugar from their diets. She thinks sugar feeds cancer.

    To be fair, it does.

    Thing is, it feeds healthy cells too. That's the really tricky thing about cancer: it's just like ordinary, healthy cells in every way, except for a few very specific things that make it different, which are extremely hard to target with precision.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      alternatives(), 17 Jan 2018 @ 6:42pm

      Re: sugar

      Cutting the sugar is prob. a good idea and I'd not be shocked for certain kinds of tumors it would work.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Seth, 17 Jan 2018 @ 8:25pm

        Re: Re: sugar

        No more than other energy sources. (Carbs, eaten fat, your own fat ... other foods a bit).

        And starving yourself of all energy will hit your brain harder than most cells.

        I'd want to see some high quality double blind, placebo controlled study showing that it's effective before recommending it to cancer patients.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 18 Jan 2018 @ 5:51am

          Re: Re: Re: sugar

          Surely you're not advocating for the Scientific Method? The horror!

          Jokes aside, I know someone who fell for the baking soda trick, the idea being that cancer is a fungus, can easily be cured, and that Big Pharma is keeping this a secret so they can milk you like a cow, or something.

          When I received that email I went to town debunking it because this nonsense KILLS people: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-38650739

          Intravenous baking soda is a valid treatment, though: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intravenous_sodium_bicarbonate

          Basically, its use in cancer treatment is predicated on a view of medicine best described as "Medieval," i.e. it's about "balancing the humours," or something. This is more based on faith and magical thinking than on pesky old empirical evidence. Rule of thumb: if your practitioner is being criticised by real doctors who provide detailed explanations as to why he or she is a quack, run.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 9:45am

    Once more...

    There is a name for "alternative medicine" that works: it's called medicine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 9:56am

      Re: Once more...

      I prefer calling it alternative alternative medicine.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 18 Jan 2018 @ 12:31am

      Re: Once more...

      Whenever someone mentions "alternative medicine", I read it as "alternative TO medicine". "Natural" remedies are simply classed as medicine if they are scientifically proven to work, everything else is just what the scam artists and witch-doctors make money from.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pegr, 17 Jan 2018 @ 10:10am

    I wouldn't trust Marc Randazza's opinion on the time of day

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 17 Jan 2018 @ 10:11am

    Well technically...nah, she's still a quack.

    > She thinks sugar feeds cancer.

    Well, yes, sugar feeds a lot of things. The most common tracer used in PET scans for detecting tumors is effectively radioactive sugar. The resulting image shows bright spots where the tumors are because they happily metabolize the radioactive sugar. You can cut sugar entirely out of your diet and it will kill off the cancer, but probably just as a side effect of you dying first because you need carbs to live.

    > Your best opportunity is to begin the natural treatments before the conventional treatments (chemo, radiation, etc.) sicken and weaken you and ultimately strengthen the disease.

    I'm skeptical. In my experience ABVD chemo kicked the shit out of my stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Hero, 17 Jan 2018 @ 10:12am

      Re: Well technically...nah, she's still a quack.

      On the plus side, you can probably save a lot of money by bringing your own baking soda to the treatment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TDR, 17 Jan 2018 @ 10:31am

      Re: Well technically...nah, she's still a quack.

      True, but what effect did the treatments have on your body? They can kill the tumor, sure, but they also don't discriminate and often cause a lot of damage to healthy cells and tissue as well and ends up basically destroying the patient's immune system and leaving them much more vulnerable to other illnesses such as pneumonia and leaving them nothing like how they were before the treatments started.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Hero, 17 Jan 2018 @ 11:06am

        Re: Re: Well technically...nah, she's still a quack.

        There are many different chemo regimens, and side-effects vary, some affect the immune system, some don't. I lost about 75-80% of my white blood cells, but the trick is to minimize your chance of infections: everything from frequently using hand sanitizer to wearing a mask on an airplane.

        Some side-effects are very bizarre, like hearing loss (see Cisplatin). Neuropathy (numbness in hands/feet), vision loss, changes in taste/smell, chemo brain, etc...

        There are also some beneficial side-effects. Friends start sending you care packages, and you can blame anything you want on the chemo and no one will question you (a bit selfish, I admit).

        The upside is you won't get these if you inject baking soda. The downside is that you will die of cancer. Take your pick.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          David, 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:35pm

          Re: Re: Re: Well technically...nah, she's still a quack.

          Some side-effects are very bizarre, like hearing loss (see Cisplatin). Neuropathy (numbness in hands/feet), vision loss, changes in taste/smell, chemo brain, etc...

          You can have most of that with a stroke. I should know. Probably doesn't help against cancer. But at least I don't scratch my legs bloody any more after contact with cats. No idea whether the skin still itches but as long as it doesn't tell me...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        SirWired, 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:45pm

        Chemo "doesn't discriminate"?

        We have a name for chemicals that don't discriminate between diseased and healthy tissue at all: poisons.

        Chemo absolutely discriminates between health and cancerous tissue. That's kinda the whole point of chemo drugs. It certainly doesn't do so perfectly, which why there are side effects.

        And given the alternative, dying of cancer, worrying about the after-effects seems like beside the point.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          TDR, 17 Jan 2018 @ 4:43pm

          Re: Chemo "doesn't discriminate"?

          Tell that to my dad. He died this past fall after dealing with tongue and throat cancer for over a year. The treatments got rid of the cancer but destroyed his body. He lost a ton of weight and went from being a little overweight but sturdy to just basically skin and bones. His immune system was decimated and he got pneumonia several times along with a few other things, which was what took him in the end, not the cancer, which was gone by then. I just have to wonder if the medical and drug industries would ever allow any studies to be conducted that could prove that some non-drug treatments may work better in some cases than drugs and chemo, given how much money they make off of cancer. After all, who said that only a drug should be able to cure a disease?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 5:35pm

            Re: Re: Chemo "doesn't discriminate"?

            Tell that to my dad. He died this past fall

            That makes it difficult...

            Anyway, if the drugs didn't discriminate, there would literally be no reason to prescribe them—they'd be pseudoscientific quackery. Doctors know thousands of 100%-reliable ways to kill cancer (plus every other cell in your body), such as cyanide pills. Chemo does a shitload of collateral damage but it's been proven to be better than nothing, and better than baking soda.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 18 Jan 2018 @ 12:47am

            Re: Re: Chemo "doesn't discriminate"?

            "After all, who said that only a drug should be able to cure a disease?"

            Nobody. However, any alternatives need to be able to pass rigorous scientific tests in order to be proven to have the desired effect. There's a lot of claims on the "alternative medicine" side, but few that can pass any acceptable level of proof.

            That none have passed such a test may mean there's a vast conspiracy like the one you suggest - or it may simply mean that such a non-drug option has not yet been discovered. Cancer is an evil force, whether you try to treat it with chemo or try to do it with Steve Jobs-style approach that does nothing until it's too late for the known effective options to work.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            SirWired, 18 Jan 2018 @ 7:23am

            Nobody's "allowed" to look for other treatments?

            There is a metric crap-ton of studies done on cancer every single year that are not trials for new drug treatments. The National Cancer Institute specializes in them, and there are many other research organizations that conduct them.

            It's not news that a weakened immune system can be slapped by something it can't shake. It's a known risk of quite a lot of aggressive drugs. My own Mother was on immunosuppressants to treat lupus, and she died of a UTI that progressed into pneumonia. It happens.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            OGquaker, 19 Jan 2018 @ 1:54pm

            Re: Re: Chemo "doesn't discriminate"?

            'After all, who said that only a drug should be able to kure a disease?'

            That would be the gate keepers, the ones using government gun enforcement for the last 112 years; the FDA. Never ever say 'kure' unless you want a federal SWAT team up your a**.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/21st_Century_Cures_Act
            Scientific Method? Haha, most drug compony trial results are secret.

            AND; '...the act requires sale of 25 million barrels of crude oil (ten million in 2017, nine million in 2018, and six million in 2019) from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Revenue from these sales will provide part of the NIH funding provided in the law.'

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2018 @ 6:23am

          Re: Chemo "doesn't discriminate"?

          Technically, chemo's just a chemical(s) so it's not the drug that does the discriminating. It's the cells that do.The whole point of chemo is that the chemo drug gets take up most rapidly by, and thus more strongly poisons, the most rapidly-dividing cells in the body. Cancer cells, for which rapid uncontrolled division is one of its hallmarks, is at the top of the list. Unfortunately, it's not the only entery. Other cells heavily affected are bone marrow, digestive tract, and hair follicles, which cause the side-effects of compromised immune system, digestive trouble, and hair loss, respectively. This is what sets chemo drugs apart from other poisons - that they're specifically developed to target cancer as much as possible over other cells. Right now, the mechanism is targeting cell division, generally by making the chemo drug resemble chemicals needed for division to trick the cancer to let it in, and then deploy its deadly payload. There's constant development to try to make new treatments and mechanics that are ever-more selectively taken up by cancer only.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 21 Jan 2018 @ 6:56am

        Re: Re: Well technically...nah, she's still a quack.

        leaving them nothing like how they were before the treatments started.

        You know what else does that? Terminal cancer.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      DLS, 17 Jan 2018 @ 5:48pm

      Re: Well technically...nah, she's still a quack.

      A. Hero, we do need carbs to live, but glucose can be easily made by our bodies from protein, so carbs are not considered to be (dietarily) essential nutrients.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 10:30am

    She treats cancer with intravenous baking soda, vitamin C, and other “natural” substances

    so, an orange bundt cake?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 17 Jan 2018 @ 10:48am

    Ask Steve Jobs...

    if he would recommend alternative treatment for cancer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 17 Jan 2018 @ 11:34am

      Re: Ask Steve Jobs...

      Jobs isn't the best example, because pancreatic cancer's got a 5% survival rate, even with the best care available. He shouldn't have dithered around with magical-thinking nonsense, but even if he hadn't, his survival was unlikely.

      There are plenty of good examples of people endangering themselves or their children through quackery. Steve Jobs's indulgence of quackery probably didn't make much difference, given his prognosis.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        SirWired, 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:53pm

        Re: Re: Ask Steve Jobs...

        The thing is, Jobs had a sort of pancreatic cancer that is often treatable if you don't dork around with woo. He could very well have been cured (or at least lived a lot longer.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 18 Jan 2018 @ 12:50am

        Re: Re: Ask Steve Jobs...

        I'd rather go with the experts here:

        "Barrie R. Cassileth, the chief of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's integrative medicine department,[122] said, "Jobs's faith in alternative medicine likely cost him his life.... He had the only kind of pancreatic cancer that is treatable and curable.... He essentially committed suicide."[123]"

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jobs#Health_issues

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2018 @ 1:55am

        Re: Re: Ask Steve Jobs...

        quakery? He got a new organ, that's what kept him going for a minute.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 18 Jan 2018 @ 2:31am

          Re: Re: Re: Ask Steve Jobs...

          ...after he had refused it until well after the point where it would actually have saved his life, due to the quackery he indulged in.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 11:01am

    Wasn't there someone who claimed to cure cancer with chlorine?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 1:31pm

      Re:

      The Gerson method claims to cure cancer with a combo of hourly fruit-liver smoothies paired with coffee enemas. Supposedly all you need to do to cure cancer is "detoxify" the body. At some points, they used ozone or bleach instead of coffee for the enema part. (in 50 years of practice, there's no hard evidence that this scam has defied the laws of nature to actually cure even a single one of its victims)

      You might be thinking of MMS/CD (Miracle Mineral Solution) which supposedly cures:
      malaria, lyme disease, acne, the common cold, H1N1 flu, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, athsma, cancer, Parkinson's, autism and the fictional "ropeworm" parasite (which is actually the shed mucosal lining of the victims' intestines).

      It was invented by some nutjob who believes that he cured an incurable bout of malaria caight during a deep African expedition by ingesting his water purification chemicals. He also believes he has a Jesus-like healing touch, and has founded his own church devoted to duping people into drinking his bleach mix, and forcing his quackery onto third-world victims.

      MMS is sold as 28% sodium chlorite crystals, but the quacks instruct to "activate" it with citric acid... which turns it into chorine dioxide, an industrial bleaching agent. The dosage of this toxin vaties on the condition to be "treated" but can greatly exceed the federal safe dosage levels. This poison is then either drunk or used as an enema.

      Its most recent claim-to-infamy is that its makers tacked Autism onto its laundry list of cures, and have even promoted it at the one-stop shop for all your quack Autism cures needs Autism One. The result of this being "parents" forcing bleach into both ends of their autistic children, while sharing tips on how to avoid CPS finding out about them torturing their kids.

      Bonus quackery time:
      Did you know that the invention of email isn't the only bullshittery VA Shiva Ayyadurai is behind? He also touts Tamil-nadu spices as wonder drugs. (I won't link it, but google "Ayyadurai tamilnadu" and you can find some of it.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 11:09am

    Joke's on her.

    I've taken all of her baking soda, and replaced it with NaHCO3, which is made using a chemical process involving the caustic and hazardous ammonia.

    Now let's see her claim that her ingredients are all natural!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 17 Jan 2018 @ 11:14am

    Also, couldn't resist the low hanging fruit.

    The use of baking soad is just basic science.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    seedeevee (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 11:34am

    Quack Doctor

    You guys know nothing about duck medicine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 17 Jan 2018 @ 11:46am

    Cancer cells are your own body cells going amok

    So there is kind of a good starting ground for faith-based medicine or placebos. The problem is getting both doctor and patient to believe in it, and you cannot really achieve that with double-blind tests.

    The confusion is exacerbated by people generally being unable to distinguish homeopathy (curing with harmful substances in high dilution levels, partially theoretically leaving smaller concentrations than you'd expect in drinking water) and phytopharmacology (using plant extracts which can actually be both effective or poisonous): either of those are considered the "good" cures set off from "school medicine".

    While it would be tricky to poison oneself with homeopathic remedies (though some preparations contain substances at dilution levels that aren't actually homeopathic and actually positively effective), of course there is no shortage of possibilities to kill oneself using "natural" substances.

    And there are even substances like botulism toxin which are actually still effective at dilutions where traditional physical and chemical methods of detection fail and one tests by injecting mice with extracts of the suspectedly poisoned substance. A few kg of this toxin would suffice to kill everyone. Not anyone, everyone.

    Including their cancer cells. Well, by proxy. Botulism can be easily survived by just staying for a month or so in a respirator until you can breathe on your own again.

    I digress. Hoo boy, do I digress.

    My point is that even quacks may help people. Sometimes just by providing hope and thus more life quality. Sometimes the belief in their healing powers may even effect changes. There are a number of "miraculous" cures where one can't really pinpoint and unfortunately not reproduce the cause and which make little medical sense.

    Stuff like some girl whose body assimilated the immune system of a bone marrow (or other organ) donor and could live without immune response suppressors.

    At any rate, whether we are talking about alternative or traditional or school medicine, few patients heed the advice "don't pay the ferryman".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:18pm

    I always enjoy reading about new ways conmen use legal fiction to establish their BS as legit goods.

    Now if only some patent troll could come up with a scheme to make money from suing peddlers of "alternate facts" for malpractice or something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    radarmonkey (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 9:24pm

    This pisses me off!

    As a cancer survivor (Stage 3 colorectal), currently in chemo, these 'natruopaths' prey on people's vulnerability and steal money from them. I've been through radiation and 2x surgeries, I'm on my way to being able to live the rest of my natural (pun intended) life. Sadly, I fear many of the victims will not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    BernardoVerda (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 9:30pm

    Why is the defense fund for an American Doctor, whose being sued by an American "doctor". in the German court system, being raised in Australian dollars?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    meh, 18 Jan 2018 @ 1:05am

    Court fees; Lawyer fees

    meaning Hermes must foot the bill for legal fees defending herself from Huber's transparent attempt to silence a noisy critic.

    Germany follows the English Rule system when it comes to court and lawyer fees, which means the loser pays both his and his opponents legal costs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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