Pseudoscience

Follow-Up on the Makayla Sault/J.J./Hippocrates Health Institute Case: J.J. Went Back to Chemo

Finally, two items of good news come out of this dreadful affair in which Aboriginal families stopped chemotherapeutic treatment for their leukemic daughters and sought nonsensical pseudoscientific treatment in Florida.

While one of the children passed away this winter, the other, known in the media as “J.J.”, is being reported as feeling well. Could it be that the raw vegan diet and the Aqua Chi Ionic Foot Bath really work to fight off cancerous tumours?

Or could it be that the family reversed their initial decision and sent their daughter back to chemotherapy?

“But [J.J. was feeling] good, as became abundantly clear, because she resumed chemo treatment in March, as soon as hospital tests confirmed that the cancer had returned.

“The cancer that her parents claimed, early this year, was no longer in evidence, as the child was treated with traditional indigenous medicine, and after the family had returned from a quack therapy regime at a Florida establishment that preaches curing cancer with a positive attitude and a raw plant-based organic diet.

“But J.J. wasn’t ‘cured,’ and to her parents’ credit, they turned back to the conventional if debilitating chemo treatment they’d fought so hard to avoid.”

It is not an easy decision to admit having been wrong, especially when it comes to the survival of your child.

But what about the judge, who had ruled in November that J.J. could not be taken for her family and forced back into chemotherapy, because it was well within the rights of her parents to pursue so-called “traditional medicine” in lieu of a debilitating treatment that had an incredibly high cure rate?

Judge Edward has issued a “clarification” to his ruling.

“Implicit in this decision is that recognition and implementation of the right to use traditional medicine must remain consistent with the principle that the best interests of the child remain paramount. The Aboriginal right to use traditional medicine must be respected and must be considered among other factors in any analysis of the best interests of the child, and whether the child is in need of protection.”

The judge has, in my opinion, displayed a shocking lack of understanding of human psychology and the strength of beliefs that are often not founded on evidence:

“Now Edward tells us that he always knew, instinctively, the parents would do what was best for J.J. He took that comforting view from the testimony of an intake manager with the Brant child welfare agency, in which she quoted the child’s mother as saying, ‘I will not let my baby die.'”

Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened with Makayla Sault. The parental impulse to ensure the survival of one’s child is no insurance against the use of quackery. There often is a gap of information between a willingness to take action and an informed decision.

You can read Rosie DiManno’s report in the Toronto Star here.

You can also hear my discussion of this case back in November with Dr. Christopher Labos on episode 204 of the podcast Within Reason.

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