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.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Let's get some clarity on the Bengston Method

Every once in a while I run across a forum discussion on the Bengston Method. The latest one is here. There is usually a predictable pattern as the discussion polarizes between a group of enthusiastic supporters who know next to nothing about the method except what they can find on the internet, and another group that is on principle opposed to anything "woo-woo" and calls Dr. William Bengston, the founder of the method, a charlatan.

So backed by my experiences with both Dr. Bengston and the method, I would like to offer some clarification.

Is he a charlatan?

In response to Dr. Bengston's detractors I will say that I do not believe he is a "charlatan". His mouse experiments are quite convincing, and there have been enough of them to show that there is indeed something anomalous going on. As far as mice go, it's all well and good: Dr. Bengston can demonstrably cure them. He also has visual proof of at least one human cure and might be able to produce testimonials of others. He is, however, very uninterested in treating people, so the claims he makes are not designed to make sick people flock to him as his critics charge.

Propagation, not enrichment?

What Dr. Bengston seems to be focused on is the propagation of his method and this is where things get interesting. Unlike some other teachers of bioenergy healing, he does not appear to be doing what he does to enrich himself. There are no weekly or monthly workshops of hundreds of students paying large sums to attend. He seems to be teaching mainly to see what will happen when people learn the method, and he claims, anecdotally, that some of his students are doing "amazing things".

The key word here is "some". Obviously Dr. Bengston can't keep track of all his students, but because the mouse experiments resulted in near-100% cures, the received wisdom on the internet is that the method is 100% successful. But not so fast: it's only 100% successful if you are a mouse. The track record for human beings is entirely different, because human beings are far more complex than mice. This is also true with conventional treatment: many promising anti-cancer agents that work on mice fail when applied to people. The other issue is transmission: Dr. Bengston may indeed be able to cure people of cancer, but that is no guarantee that the people he teaches will be able to do likewise.

Dr. Bengston claims in his experiments to have successfully taught the method to skeptical volunteers, who then went on to cure mice. He offers a caveat, which is that because of the way the method worked in the experiments (through something he calls "resonant bonding") he could not be sure that it was the volunteers who cured the mice rather than he himself using them as proxies. He will also say that those volunteers never tried their hand at curing humans. But in the rhetoric around the workshops these volunteers are being used as proof that the method can be taught, even though early on Dr. Bengston himself expressed some skepticism about actually "teaching" them.

An on-going sociological experiment?

So in effect Dr. Bengston's workshops seem to be an on-going sociological experiment around healing, belief, and transmission (which is fitting, because Dr. Bengston is a sociologist). The problem is that the people who attend are not going to them in this spirit but with the intent to learn a healing method that they believe is 100% successful in curing cancer. And the result is that we have graduates of these weekend workshops who then go home and post on their websites that they have learned this method, and offer treatments with the statement that Dr. Bengston says eight weekly sessions are sufficient to deal with stage-4 cancer. It's when I see these claims that I begin to see red, because I think they are firmly in the realm of snake oil. We have gone from someone curing mice in the lab over 40 years to someone who took a single weekend workshop and now believes they can reliably cure people, without ever necessarily having cured a single person.

Somewhere in the middle

Attending a workshop, however, is not a waste of time and neither is practicing the method. We found that it had a lot to offer in terms of palliation: patients treated with it had less pain and a much better quality of life, and they also (anecdotally) seemed to live longer than their doctors predicted. But I think it's less than ethical for a student of the method to offer it as something that cures and ditto to use the success of the mouse experiments as proof of efficacy in humans. Call it what it is: something experimental. Tell the truth: the 100% success rate applies to mice, not to people. Don't claim anything you cannot back up: don't say you can cure stage-4 cancer in eight weekly treatments unless you have done it, repeatedly, yourself.

So, as always, the path of truth lies somewhere between the cheerleaders and the detractors. To say that the method is 100% effective without adding "in mice" is to promote a lie; to say that it's worthless is to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The best way to describe it is as something potentially helpful, a work in progress, and an intriguing glimpse of what one day might be absolutely possible.