Note: We received this note anonymously and it is a compelling
rebuttal to the positive reviews on the Hoxsey book, "How Healing Becomes
A Crime." In the interests of free and impartial commentary, we
reproduce it here unedited. Afterwards, we provide our own
"rebuttal of the rebuttal." [Alpha Omega Labs staff]
Much Crime, No Healing - August 26, 2000
A reader from Oakland, CA - USA
The book, When Healing Becomes a Crime, is quite inappropriately named for while it provides substantial evidence of crime there is no evidence of healing. The book is, at best, the worst sort of example of self-described "independent" "investigative journalism" which shows no independence, no investigation, and is journalism in only the weakest sense of the word.
Clearly, there are good arguments to be made for alternative medical treatments and the investigation of the use of natural substances in cancer therapy - but this book is not among them.
For good reason it is only on the second to the last of the 355 pages that we finally learn that there is no evidence that Hoxsey's Tijuana herbal root beer float is of any benefit at all. It is only here that Kenney Ausubel finally discloses that a survey of 149 "patients" receiving "treatment" during three months of 1992 found that of the 85 which the researcher was able to track, only 17 (26%) were still alive - much less cured - at the end of five years. In fact, this 26% still-living rate is such a far cry from the outlandish 80% "cure" rate claimed by Hoxsey that had this been disclosed at the beginning I suspect no one would even consider buying the book. - A few moment's research would suggest that 26% are going to survive five years even if their anti-cancer diet consists of burgers, fries, and milkshakes. (Another 64 were "lost to follow-up," which suggests that many, if not all, of these could only be found with the help of a shovel. This would mean a pathetic 5 year still-living rate of 11%.)
"The central meaning of the story" is not Hoxsey's "quest for an investigation" as Ausubel claims, it is fraud, plain old - good old - 19th century American snake oil fraud and it is a terrible shame that Ausubel has wasted 20 years of his life trying to make a heroes out of the crooks who orchestrated it.
According to Ausubel, Hoxsey was "anguished" by the unwillingness of the government and the medical establishment to subject his "cure" to scientific analysis. The truth was that Hoxsey was unwilling to part with even a small part of his enormous profits to fund such a study (as pharmaceutical companies do as a matter of course) or even - and most significantly - to maintain adequate patient records by means of which others could perform such a study. Even though Hoxsey's clinics "treated" as many as 12,000 people a year, Hoxsey was only willing to submit fifty or sixty incomplete files for independent analysis.
Why, Ausubel cannot bear to ask, should anyone take Hoxsey seriously?
Any fraud investigator could have advised our "investigative journalist" that a product of questionable value, grand and unsupported claims, huge profits from little investment, and the absence of a paper trail are unmistakable signs of fraud which only the naive and/or self-deluded can ignore. There is an "investigative" lesson here: pick up the phone; call someone who knows how to investigate a fraud.
The only positive thing which might be said about the book is that Ausubel's naiveté leads him to unwittingly make a very convincing case that Hoxsey and his chain-smoking assistant, Mildred Nelson, were scammers who made many millions of dollars profiting from desperate cancer victims. -- Do the math (which Ausubel chooses not to do): 1992 -- 1,200 desperate patients -- $3,500 each -- $4,200,000 - cost of elixir: minuscule - staffing: Mexican minimum wage - profit: enormous. And think how profitable it was for Hoxsey when he had 12,000 desperate victims a year.
There are so many things wrong this book - from Ausubel's ignorance of the legal system (among other things, he does not know the difference between a judgment and a conviction), to his failure to follow the money, to his reliance on anecdotes from the few living and none from the relatives of the many dead - that it would take at least another 355 pages to outline them all. Most importantly, concealed in distant endnotes is the fact that the primary sources of his "amazing" revelations are either Harry Hoxsey himself or his paid publicists.
There is no question that Hoxsey felt he was treated unkindly and that our author feels badly for him. It may well be that Hoxsey died (possibly of cancer) a bitter - well, a rich and bitter - man. But there is a lesson here too: don't commit the crime if all you're gonna do is whine.
My recommendation, no, my hope, is that you won't buy this book and reward bad journalism with good money. Even more, if you happen to notice it on the shelf - in the bookstore or God forbid in the library - snatch it and hide it in the medieval philology section where no one is likely to notice it and consider this heroic act your good deed for the day.
(signed) A cancer victim and actual fraud investigator.
I've seen the movie - and I've read the
book, and maybe it's me - but I didn't take either work as a glowing testimony
to the life and times of Harry Hoxsey. In the movie, in particular, there are
a number of quite unflattering comments about the man and the way he conducted
I am no proclaimed "fraud investigator,"
however, I am an eyewitness to the many underhanded tactics of the cancer
industry to suppress alternative therapies that have proven themselves to
be head and shoulders in performance above chemotherapy, radiation, and
(See our suppression section).
Both "Hoxsey works" (book and movie) were, in my mind, more a commentary
on the cancer industry's response to alternative therapies in the marketplace
than they were to Hoxsey himself. The "unnamed reader" above condemns
Hoxsey for not being more forthcoming with his records. (And if this
is really true, it is, indeed, deplorable.) Nonetheless, to say that a
cancer industry that is thrown millions of dollars in research money
a year is absolutely powerless to investigate any of Hoxsey's techniques
without the help of this dretched "snake oil doctor," is just ludicrous.
Like any businessman who is under constant government attack, Hoxsey may well
have been short on cooperation. Who wouldn't be? But he wasn't silent.
His book, "You Don't Have To Die!" (1956) actually lists all the herbals
used in his systemic formula - something that most proprietary formulators of
herbal products in the U.S., Canada, U.K. are loath to do.
As to efficacy, this is relevant -
but only to a point. Did Hoxsey's formulae work? Or were they part of
a complete sham?
I may not be an authority on
Harry Hoxsey, but I am a world-noted authority on escharotics.
Harry Hoxsey's topical formula, an ancient forebear to Cansema
Salve would have worked pretty good. He used a mild caustic (zinc chloride,
or ZnCl4) with sanguinaria (bloodroot) and the addition of one
or more humectants. Simple. And for most skin cancer sufferers, if you
went into a time machine and grabbed Hoxsey's topical right out of one
of his clinics, circa 1952, it would work better, less expensively,
less invasively, and with less scar tissue, than 95% of the
orthodox skin cancer treatments used today in the 21st Century.
So much for the war on cancer.
Hoxsey's internal formula,
(using a potassium iodine base), was probably marginal in most cases.
Remember, this is just the opinion of one master herbalist.
It would have some alkalizing effect (not on the blood, which remains
a relatively constant pH 7.4, but on other body fluids, which can
readily acidify with improper diet to greatly assist metastasis).
Most of the herbs that Hoxsey used, (and this goes for Essiac tea as well),
were very mildly cancerolytic, purgative, or detoxifying: berberis root,
buckthorn bark, burdock root, cascara amarga, licorice, poke root, prickly
ash bark, red clover tops, and stillingia root.
They might have a preventative or even a palliative effect with some
cancer patients, but they are not nearly as aggressive as some of
the compounds we use at Alpha Omega Labs. However, unlike
the modern oncologist's top-dollar solutions: chemotherapy and
radiation, they wouldn't have been harmful. At least we know with
certainly that Harry Hoxsey didn't chemo or radiate his patients
to death with toxic, indiscriminating cell-killing agents,
even if his actual success ratio is subject to legitimate dispute.
The greater lesson to come out
of the Hoxsey story is how do we deal with a medical establishment that
long ago threw out "evidence-based" therapies in exchange for
"profit-based" ones? Unless you're a historian, specializing in
1950's alternative cancer therapies in the U.S., you lose sight of
the larger picture if you discard this point.
The Hoxsey story is relevant to
staffers at Alpha Omega Labs for another reason: our own relationship
to both orthodox medicine and other alternative therapies. Want to
see proof of the "we could care less whether it works or not" attitude from
within orthodoxy? Just go to the most current page of
www.quackwatch.com - and there you will find (halfway down the page)
the name "Cansema." That's right. And there is no other information
(as of this writing). Without notifying us. Without emailing us.
Without reviewing any of the facts, you have an organization that
supports orthodox remedies on the web that, out of hand, has condemned
"the Cansema system" (and what is that? They don't even know anything
about the products they are condemning) and can say nothing more
compelling in their defense other than to list the product.
"And, why, good Sir, is the
'Cansema system', in your opinion, an example of quackery?"
"Ahh... well... ahh...
because IT IS -- that's why!"
Pity. A multibillion dollar
industry whose principals can find nothing better to use in their
defense of labelling something "outside our country club" quackery
than it's very mention.
This is the larger lesson:
the willingness of democratic governments supposedly run "by the People" to
place impartial, objective scientific fact over purely financial
interests (something that doesn't exist now) -- not
whether or not Harry Hoxsey - or some highly profitable clinic in
Tijuana that benefits from his namesake - has a better approach to
dealing with cancer.
It is a lesson I hope that
neither the readers of Kenny's book, or those who view the Hoxsey
movie, will lose.
And an important lesson it is.
September 4, 2001