I discovered yesterday that, early this month, Hulda Regehr Clark died.
In the same way that the Westboro Baptist Church and its astonishingly ghastly leader, Fred Phelps, are an excellent choice if you need an example of a religious organisation that pretty much nobody sane could like, so Hulda Clark was the archetypal example of an out-there quack. She wrote a number of books, which include The Cure for All Cancers, The Cure for HIV/AIDS and The Cure For All Diseases. And she was, so far as anyone can tell, quite sincere; unlike scam artists like Kevin Trudeau, Hulda really was telling us all how to cure every disease in the world, in her opinion.
But Clark was more than just a good example of a sincere quack. Fred Phelps is a raving loony with very little popular following, but Clark's similarly deranged ideas have attracted a surprising number of true believers, and a steady stream of desperate people heading to her clinic (relocated, after some unpleasantness, from the USA to Mexico...), to piss away the last of their money and/or life.
Hulda's ideas included a firm conviction that vast swathes of human disease are caused by liver flukes, and that the flukes can be killed by a little electrical "zapper" device of her own invention. Whereupon your nonresectable pancreatic cancer will go away. This very clear sort of objectively-provable cause and cure makes Clark's theories a useful example of whacko quackery; in order to believe Clark, you're required to be utterly ignorant of, or convinced of the invalidity of, fundamental elements of scientific medicine that've been around for at least a hundred years.
Orac of Respectful Insolence has put old Hulda pretty comprehensively to bed in his Requiem for a Quack, so I'll try not to ramble on too long about What This All Means and how it's another example of why critical thinking is important and yadda yadda yadda.
(I bought another couple of copies of Why People Believe Weird Things the other day. One is already earmarked for a young relative.)
As Orac says at the end of his post, and as many other people have said - where are the people Clark cured, if she ever cured anyone? There ought to be hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who were once gravely ill but are still alive and well today, because of her.
It's like faith healers. If they really are healing people of their lameness and diabetes and who knows what else, there ought to be tons of these healed people all over the place, happy to leap up on their de-withered and even re-grown legs and testify with all the wind their now-cancer-free lungs can deliver regarding the validity of their chosen televangelist, Christian Scientist or psychic surgeon.
But faith healers are famously reluctant to even keep lists of the people they've healed.
You'd think that healed people would be the very best candidates for the donations that so many faith healers seem so perpetually to need. But nope.
(There's an ingenious subversion of the follow-up idea, in which the faith healer solicits testimonial reports of healing miracles from followers, but carefully avoids the awkward process of seeing if the "healed" people even had the disease they reported in the first place, much less whether any real diseases are really cured.)
Hulda Clark had a neat solution to the tiresome problem of following up on her "cures".
The Cure for All Cancers has a bunch of "case histories" in it, you see, which include 103 people who allegedly had their cancer cured by Clark. The way she verified that a cure had taken place, though, was by a blood test for a growth factor which, according to Hulda, indicated the presence of the deadly-liver-flukes-that-cause-all-cancer in the patient's body.
If you tested positive for that growth factor, you had cancer, even if regular doctors couldn't find it.
(The majority of patients in Hulda's case studies were only diagnosed as having the disease by means of Hulda's unusual blood test.)
If you tested positive, and Hulda Zapped you, and you subsequently tested negative, you were now cancer-free, again regardless of what conventional medicine might think.
And since you were now definitely 100% cancer-free, there was no need for Hulda to waste her valuable time looking into five-year survival rates, or any of that other nonsense to which the brutal and chaotic practitioners of Conventional Oncology are reduced.
If a patient died of cancer a year after being cured by Hulda, after all, then it must have been because the liver flukes re-infected him! If Clark told other patients about this, all it'd do is fill them with unjustified uncertainty about the validity of the treatments which Clark knew, with absolute religious certainty, worked!
I think this is quite a succinct version of the impregnable circular logic that supports all sorts of weird beliefs.
UPDATE: According to Hulda's death certificate and her own Web site, the woman with the Cure for All Cancers, the Cure For All Advanced Cancers and the Cure for All Diseases did, indeed, die of cancer.
Clearly, this can only be another example of the terrible power of malicious animal magnetism.