The purpose of this blog is purely educational. It does not advise any reader to forgo medical treatment for any condition. It describes methods that have not yet been proven effective through widespread scientific testing. Readers who are concerned about their health are advised to contact their physician.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What would your doctor say if you had a spontaneous remission?

All healing is self-healing. The purpose of any health intervention, be it drugs, surgery, acupuncture, chiropractic or energy healing, is to help the body heal itself. When the body takes charge and returns to health on its own when it's not expected to, we call that a spontaneous remission.

Doctors are taught in medical school that spontaneous remissions do occur, but the reasons for them are not explored. Vaguely related to the placebo effect, they are simply not considered to be all that interesting. Defined as miracles, they are thought to belong more in the realm of religion than of medicine.

The most famous instance of a documented spontaneous remission attributed to the placebo effect is that of Mr. Wright, who responded to a fake injection of the experimental cancer drug Krebiozen with not one but two episodes of spontaneous remission. He was expected to die imminently, but after his doctor injected him with Krebiozen, his tumours "melted like snowballs on a hot stove" and he was able to return home from his hospital bed. But when he read in the paper that Krebiozen did not work, Mr. Wright's tumours returned with a vengeance and he succumbed to his illness.

Another case of spontaneous remission from cancer is described in chapter 5 of Leigh Fortson's Embrace, Release, Heal. In this case a young man whom Fortson calls Jeff was sent home to die after his very aggressive cancer invaded his spine and he refused experimental chemotherapy that would have left him paralyzed. Jeff received treatment from a healer named Ben and five weeks later he returned to his doctor cancer free. His doctor's response was a textbook illustration of what physicians do when confronted with a spontaneous remission.

The first response, not unreasonable given the doctor's experience and expectations of the progression of a known disease, is usually "your test results are wrong". "Our (fill in the blank) machine is broken." "The lab made an error." "We'll have to redo the tests." This is what Jeff's doctor said.

If the tests persist in showing the absence of disease, the next step might be "your initial diagnosis was wrong." Because you had a disease that does not normally disappear by itself and it disappeared, that must mean you did not have the disease in the first place. It will be suggested that the initial results on which the diagnosis was based were either wrong or someone else's.

Only if it can be conclusively shown that the initial test results were a) yours and b) not wrong will your doctor consider the possibility of spontaneous remission. But then he or she will likely dismiss it by saying "yes, spontaneous remissions do happen, quite rarely. This must be one of those cases." The next response might be "But we better keep an eye on things, just in case (your disease) returns."

If your "spontaneous remission" occurred in conjunction with you receiving some kind of alternative therapy, your doctor will most likely not want to know about it. The less accepted the alternative therapy is, the less your doctor will want to know. If you had energy healing, for instance, and try to tell him, your doctor will either not hear you or look vaguely uncomfortable and embarrassed as he says "well, whatever you are doing, keep on doing it."

A small minority of doctors will call the remission a miracle. But they will still not want to know how it happened.

Why are we not looking into spontanous remissions?

I am profoundly baffled by medical science's apparent lack of interest in spontaneous remissions. Having a spontaneous remission is the most efficient, natural, painless, cost-effective and side-effect free way of healing. So when an instance of it occurs, rather than brushing it aside saying "these things occasionally happen", why aren't we asking "how do these things happen?" and "how can we make them happen more often?"

The fact that it has happened once already shows that it can happen again. And since it has happened more than once, it is a valid and real phenomenon. There are certain conditions that create the potential for it to happen. So the question is, if we find out what those conditions are, and we recreate them in people who have not yet healed, will we see more spontaneous remissions? Why aren't we looking into this in a systematic way?

My pet theory about energy healing, BTW, is that when it works it does so through a kind of "assisted spontaneous remission", either by balancing energies (as the Reiki folks say) or by kick-starting the immune system (as suggested by teachers of the Domancic Method and by Bill Bengston), or maybe by doing a bit of both. This is something else we should be looking into.