The invasion of quackery into academic medicine is one of the scarier developments of the last few decades. Quackery and woo often come with financial support from misguided patrons, or is pushed by administrators (and sometimes doctors themselves) as a way of marketing their institutions to certain segments of the population. Few places are worse in that respect than the University of Arizona Cancer Center, which apparently offers the whole gamut, from Reiki to Reflexology to Acupuncture to Cranial massage, all advertised as “healing” by boosting one’s immune system, complementing conventional chemotherapy and so on – indeed, for a while they even offered the services of faith healer Frank Schuster. Of course, in the case of UA much of the nonsense is due to the malicious influence of Andrew Weil, but he is certainly not the only culprit.
One example (and perhaps not the most egregious) is The Seven Levels of Healing, a program created and offered by Dr. Jeremy Geffen, MD, FACP, who is a “board certified medical oncologist and leading expert in integrative medicine and oncology”. He is also the author of The Journey Through Cancer: Healing and Transforming the Whole Person. The Seven Levels program is, of course, little more than New Age faith healing. Its Level 7 is of course about the “Nature of the Spirit”: “Spirit is our true nature: timeless, eternal, and dimensionless, the source from which all awareness, all creativity and, ultimately, all healing flows.” Yeah, that kind of “medicine”. (And keep in mind: this is offered by a university-affiliated cancer center). The goal of the level is to help
patients “discover this spiritual aspect
of themselves, and to bring this into full, ongoing awareness. When what we
experience as physical reality is threatened, it is more important than ever
before to remember that another part of us is timeless and eternal, and remains
strong, healthy, and powerful, no matter what our physical circumstances may
be. In recognizing the nature of our spiritual selves, and the incredible
mystery of awareness itself, we uncover the source of ultimate love and freedom
– an infinite ocean from which healing can be drawn.” No. That’s not how it
works. That’s pseudo-religious mumbo-jumbo. But you don’t need to reach Level 7
to get a taste of the woo; already Level 3, “The Body as Garden” explores “the full spectrum of complementary
approaches to healing: nutrition; exercise [note how altmed proponents are
often trying to claim that exercise and nutrition are somehow “alternative” –
to be able to point to “alternative” treatments that actually have demonstrable
health benefits, of course]; massage;
yoga; herbal therapies; Ayurvedic, Tibetan and Chinese medicine; acupuncture; homeopathy; chiropractic; and visualization,” though with the disclaimer
that they “do not offer or promote these
approaches as cancer treatments per se, and we do not believe that they should
be viewed in this manner. However, we do believe that they can supplement
conventional care by cleansing, toning, relaxing, and strengthening the
body, thus giving health and well-being the greatest chance to emerge.” You
see, if they make claims to actually cure people they might be held
accountable, and the last thing people like Geffen would want is to be held
accountable for the advice they offer.
What is particularly frightening is that Geffen is apparently working to get “The Seven Levels of Healing” program implemented in cancer centers across the United States. At least the program has thus far been endorsed by The Wellness Community, but they endorse a lot of shit.
Diagnosis: That some people devote their life to this kind of garbage is actually a tragedy, but garbage it is.