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The late Canadian-born Dr. Hulda Regehr Clark (1928-2009) was a highly controversial figure. She began her college education at the University of Saskatchewan, where she obtained a degree in biology. She moved on to the University of Minnesota, where she got her master’s in physiology and a Ph.D. in zoology.
But instead of spending her life in some innocuous field related to her university education, Clark became a guru of alternative treatments for cancer and other diseases.
In 1993, after years of “research”, Clark published a book called The Cure for All Cancers, in which she suggested that all diseases, including cancer, were caused by parasites, toxins, and pollutants, and could be cured by killing these parasites and removing the toxins. This book was followed by several others – The Cure for HIV and AIDS (1993), The Cure for All Diseases (1995), and The Cure for All Advanced Cancers (1999) – all of them focused on the same theme.
Clark developed an electric device she called the “syncrometer,” which she claimed could detect deadly toxins and parasites in the body. Based on the syncrometer’s readings, she would recommend a variety of treatments, including herbal remedies, orthomolecular medicine, and the removal of dental fillings.
According to Clark, all cancers are caused by a particular parasite she called the “human intestinal fluke.” Eliminating this parasite, said Clark, would halt the cancer’s progression, allowing the affected tissue to revert to its normal state.
Her proposed solution for anyone with cancer was straightforward: eradicate the parasite by taking a carefully calibrated combination of three specific herbs – black walnut hulls derived from the black walnut tree, wormwood from the artemisia shrub, and freshly ground cloves. This concoction would target the mature flukes and their eggs, she said, and the patient would soon recover completely.
Unsurprisingly, Clark faced significant criticism from the medical and scientific communities, with experts rejecting her theories and methodologies as quackery, noting that her treatments were not supported by scientific evidence. Clark also faced legal challenges, with accusations of practicing medicine without a license.
But despite all this, Clark had a devoted following – a coalition of alternative medicine enthusiasts and desperate patients, all of whom celebrated her as a pioneering figure challenging the mainstream medical establishment.
It is hard to determine how much harm Clark caused, and how many cancer patients – and other sufferers of serious diseases – died because of her. But there is no doubt that countless people who opted for Clark’s treatments faced severe health risks and expedited disease progression due to the delay or avoidance of conventional therapies. In a twist of fate, Clark herself succumbed to cancer in 2009.
One of Clark’s close collaborators was Dr. William Donald Kelley (1925-2005), an orthodontist known for his proprietary cancer cure, called “Kelley Metabolic Therapy.” Kelley claimed to have cured himself from pancreatic cancer in the 1960s, through enzyme therapy and a special diet.
He claimed that cancer arises from pancreatic enzyme deficiencies and toxin buildup, and his “cure,” like Clark’s, combined oral enzyme supplements, specific dietary regimens, removing metal fillings, and detoxification.
The media threw Kelley into the limelight when Hollywood actor Steve McQueen, diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma, sought his therapy. While initial reports suggested McQueen had gone into remission, he passed away shortly afterward. Kelley’s purported 90% success rate and methodology came under fire, leading to legal restrictions on his practice.
Clark and Kelley were far from alone. There have been dozens of other pseudo-medical experts who have fooled and continue to fool incredulous and often desperate cancer sufferers with their bogus claims.
The most famous of these controversial characters was Max Gerson (1881-1959), who developed the Gerson Therapy, a diet-based treatment that included a specific diet, raw juices, coffee enemas, and various other supplements.
Harry Hoxsey (1901-1974) promoted the Hoxsey Therapy, which used herbal remedies and pastes. Hoxsey claimed that his “cure” for cancer was a family secret passed down from his great-grandfather.
Gaston Naessens (1924-2018) was a French-Canadian scientist who developed formula 714-X, a compound he claimed could boost the immune system to destroy cancer cells. Ryke Geerd Hamer (1935-2017) founded a movement called Germanic New Medicine, and asserted that all diseases, including cancer, are caused by unresolved psychological conflicts.
These quacks have all died already – some, ironically, from cancer. But they have inspired contemporary successors, including Tullio Simoncini (b.1951) an Italian ex-medical doctor who claims that cancer is caused by the fungus Candida and can be cured with baking soda; and Stanislaw Burzynski (b.1943), a Polish-born physician who treats cancer patients with antineoplastons.
What they all have in common is that they sell false hope, and pretend to have powers they don’t, drawing people away from what is real and proven, thereby causing further anguish to people who are already in the depths of despair.
To be clear, this list is far from comprehensive, and the phenomenon of charismatic “experts” offering false hope to those in need is as old as time itself. Indeed, one cannot help but draw a parallel to the timeless wisdom embedded in Parshat Re’eh, where the Torah warns us (Deut. 13:1-4), “If there arises among you a false prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass… you shall not listen to the words of that prophet, nor to that dreamer of dreams…”
The context in Parshat Re’eh is idol worship, and the fear that people of faith will be drawn to false gods. But in a modern context, “false prophets” and “dreamers” can be likened to those who offer promises of miracle cures, leading individuals away from proven treatments – treatments that have the backing of science, and of the laws of nature that God created for our world.
The Torah is concerned that we might be led astray by someone who shows us signs and wonders, dazzling us with promises of incredible outcomes. The message for today’s world is that critically ill patients and their families must be vigilant against false hope and dubious treatments. Even if these treatments seem miraculous or revolutionary, one must properly evaluate their validity, just as our ancestors were instructed to remain steadfast in their faith despite the tantalizing allure of false prophets.
This juxtaposition emphasizes the timeless relevance of the Torah’s teachings. The age-old warning against blindly following charismatic leaders, regardless of seemingly miraculous evidence of their abilities, resonates with the stories of Clark, Kelley, and all the others. Just as the Jewish nation of yore was warned to be discerning and steadfast in their faith, we, too, must exercise discernment, especially in matters of health and well-being.
“Be exceedingly careful in preserving your lives,” warns the Torah (Deut. 4:15) – and this warning applies even if our health is failing. Embracing quackery is just another way of denying God, but sadly it’s a trap we might easily fall into. In a world filled with myriad voices offering promises of hope and salvation, the lessons from Parshat Re’eh serve as a timeless reminder: be discerning, be informed, and always prioritize evidence over allure.