Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Who Decides? Who's To Blame?

One of the things in the Australian news right now is a homeopathic drama in Perth.

A woman was diagnosed with rectal cancer in February 2003. She refused the conventional treatment that COULD have saved her, and instead opted for homeopathic medicine. That did not save her. In October 2003, she finally agreed to go under the knife. I guess it was a bit too late. The cancer had spread. In August 2005 she died.

Now an Inquiry is underway to see if there's someone we can blame for this. I'm not sure why this is suddenly in the news five years later? Why is an inquiry is being done now? Does it usually take these things that long to get under way?

It seems no one can know for sure what happened here. But here are four possible situations.

1. Penelope Dingle had more faith in homeopathic medicine than Western. She decided to go the alternative route. Whether or not her homeopathic healer and/husband agreed with her, they decided this was her body and her choice. They let her make the decision over her treatment, and they stood by her. This is the story the husband stands by.

2. Dr. Dingle (the husband) was a big believer in homeopathic medicine, and convinced his wife to go that route.

3. The homeopath healer guy was very zealous and managed to convince the Dingles that this was the best choice. I've seen both Western and alternative medicine folks who are extreme in their beliefs, and give the idea that if you don't follow their advice, you're a total fool.

4. Dr. Dingle forced his wife to go the alternative medicine route. Well, I'm not picturing her held at gunpoint. But maybe he threatened her? Belittled her? Maybe he lied and manipulated her.

The fourth situation disturbs me the most....of course. I'm picturing a Rosemary's Baby type situation. That would mean not only did the husband push his wife to do something she didn't want to do, but now he's lying to the media. He's twisting the story to make himself look like an innocent victim. It's scary, and possible.

The third would bother me just because medical folks annoy me with their pushiness. I know I've told this story before, but I'll do it again. When Jack was two we took him to the dentist. The forms asked when we had weaned him, and we didn't write a date....since it hadn't happened yet. The dentist told us we MUST wean him. Two-year-olds shouldn't be breastfeeding. He was a dentist with a degree, and so he must know everything. We'd be pathetic fools if we didn't listen to him. Right? Fortunately I had previously done a ton of research (I'm big into that whole research thing) and knew that many organizations and experts believe that it's healthy and normal to NOT wean a child before their second year.

Some medical folks don't like people doing independent research. I heard of one story where a doctor told his patients to not read any pregnancy books. He was their doctor, and it should be him alone that the patients listen to.

Yeah. Stuff like that bothers me.

The second scenario seems fairly okay to me. People who love each other sometimes persuade each other to make certain decisions. Maybe Dr. Dingle truly believed homeopathic medicine was the best choice for his wife. Maybe Mrs. Dingle trusted her husband's opinion. Although if this is true, it's bad simply for the fact that Dr. Dingle is now telling the media that it's his wife who wanted the homeopathic stuff. That would make him a liar, and I don't like that.

I am totally fine with the first scenario. If I was in Mrs. Dingle's shoes, I might make the same choice. Since I'm a mother and wouldn't want to leave my child motherless....if I had cancer, I'd likely do everything in my power to stay alive. I'd probably try every treatment available, both Western and alternative. Hell, I'd eat smoothies made of dog shit if I thought it might help.

Penelope Dingle did not have a child. In fact, that's why she started going to homeopathic healers. She wanted help with fertility issues before the cancer issue came up.

If I didn't have a child, I'm not sure how far I'd go to stay alive. I mean I love life. But I don't know if I'd love life enough to endure surgeries and radiation. I think I'd opt for prayer, flower essences, acupuncture, Reiki, etc.

Or maybe I'd go for the Western stuff. I really don't know.

I think people have the right to make their own decisions regarding their health. If they're children, that's probably a different story. But adults....definitely.

This other article here is shedding some light for me.

Penelope Dingle's sisters are the ones who turned this into an inquisition. They don't like that their sister died (who would?), and now they're trying to find someone to blame. Well, I shouldn't be hard on them. It makes sense to want to find out why someone you loved died. But if she died from her own decisions, I think this needs to be let go.

Should the husband be blamed if he was simply a supportive husband who stood by his wife's decision? I don't think so.

Tim is the opposite of controlling. I make my decisions, and he supports them....even if they might be unhealthy. He'll give me his opinions in a subtle gentle way, but in the end he lets me do what I feel is best...even if it involves going on weird extreme diets. At times, I've wished I had one of those husbands who puts their foot down, and makes sure their wives do what's healthy. But I've realized, in the end, I need to find my own way, make my own mistakes.

I think husbands can and should do some persuading. But once someone makes a decision....

Oh, I don't know. That might be wrong. Sometimes a spouse DOES need to step in. Sometimes it's obvious that someone is doing something unhealthy. Sometimes it's a very black and white situation, and the spouse should probably step in and lead the sick one in the healthy direction. But often there are grays.

I think alternative medicine is definitely a gray. Conventional cancer treatment is not a 100% guaranteed success. Alternative medicine is not a 100% guaranteed failure.

If a woman went to get surgery for cancer, and died under the knife....should her husband be blamed for allowing her to partake in Western medicine?

I'm looking at a third article here. Information presented in this one makes me think we might have more of a #2 situation. They say that Dr. Dingle had once written a paper saying that surgery and chemotherapy are ineffective treatments for cancer. This isn't the first time I've read something like that. Tim was telling me about the Freakonomics book he had read. They had stuff along the lines of chemotherapy not helping cancer victims as much as the general public imagines. I can't say I fully understand their reasoning or research, so I won't go to much into that. But it does raise questions in my mind.


I'm not sure what to think now. If Dr. Dingle wrote this paper, it seems he did have some feelings against Western medicine. But now he's making it seem that it was all his wife's decision, and he simply supported her. I guess it could be true. Maybe he questioned conventional cancer treatments, but didn't necessarily feel they shouldn't be tried.

I question Western medicine, but I still often use it. The same goes for the alternative stuff.

I guess I'd need to know more about this paper. Was Dr. Dingle speaking out against surgery and chemotherapy for cancer; or was he simply questioning it?

I question vaccines a lot. I do research. I'm one of those people who distrusts the big pharmaceutical companies. BUT Jack has had his shots. After doing research, I usually conclude that although I don't fully trust vaccines...I also don't fully trust NOT having vaccines. So we do the vaccines.

Questioning a medical treatment is way different than absolutely refusing it.

The third news article is entitled Cancer Wife Dies in Excruciating Pain. Good dramatic pull there. But isn't death by cancer usually very painful?

Now death might have been avoided....and it seems doing so would have been fairly likely if Dingle agreed to the surgery immediately. Statistics in the article say that there's a 77% survival rate if the surgery is done, in the stage of cancer Dingle was in, when she was first diagnosed. That's a pretty good prognosis. But Dingle still could have ended up in the 23%. And when she ended up dying..... wouldn't it have been extremely painful?

Maybe it's my imagination, but I feel I've encountered many cancer horror tragedies. I don't think ALL of those people were ones who said no to Western medicine. Sometimes Western medicine fails people too.

It reminds me of the arguments against unschooling. There are those who think that unschooling promises failure. If you don't give your child a formal education, they're never going to learn anything. They won't be literate. They won't know how to add, subtract, and multiply. They won't know what the Civil War is. They'll never get a job, and they'll be on government assistance. Ah! The horror!

From what I've seen....some unschooling kids develop into very intelligent adults. They get jobs. They're HIGHLY literate. They read. They write. They can do math. They know lots and lots of stuff.

Unschooling works. It doesn't work all the time, I'm sure. I'm sure some kids do end up illiterate lazy failures. Of course. I wouldn't deny that it's a possibility. But there are a lot of unsuccessful people out there in the world. There are folks without jobs. There are folks who can't answer very basic history questions. There are homeless folks and lonely folks. I seriously doubt that all these individuals were unschooled. I'm betting many of them had a public and/or private school education.

I guess that's my feeling. Unless something is absolutely guaranteed to work, I think we need to respect the fact that people might want to try an alternative path.