Our BFF Ann sent us what we thought was a very insightful blog about the “Dateline” show on ShopNBC vendor/actress/entrepreneur/best-selling author Suzanne Somers.
The blog, “Suzanne Somers: Cancer Expert,” was written by Dr. Barron Lerner for The New York Times. “Dateline” reported on critics, and supporters, of Somers’ controversial beliefs on using alternative medicine to treat cancer, deal with menopause, etc. She wrote a book on her cancer beliefs called “Knockout.”
“Is it entirely outrageous that respected media organizations continue to give the ‘Three’s Company’ sitcom star a platform to dispense medical advice?” Lerner asked. “Not really, in a world in which celebrities have become among the most recognizable spokespeople — and sometimes experts — about various diseases.”
He is an expert on the topic, having authored a book called “When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine.”
He notes that Somers, “after receiving surgery and radiation for her breast cancer in 2001, declined chemotherapy in favor of a drug made from mistletoe extract.”
And he talks about the nontraditional doctors that Somers touts: Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski and Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez.
“Dr. Burzynski, based in Houston, has treated more than 10,000 cancer patients with naturally occurring proteins that he calls antineoplastons,” Lerner wrote in his blog. “Dr. Gonzalez, who practices in New York City and has gained notoriety for his use of coffee enemas, uses a regimen similar to that given to Steve McQueen, although without the laetrile.”
Lerner previously interviewed several patients who were cured by Gonzalez.
“I met several who had been told by mainstream oncologists that they had incurable cancer but who were very much alive five, 10 or even 20 years later,” he wrote in The Times. “Yet it is hard to know what to make of these anecdotes, however powerful they are. Medicine relies on formal scientific studies…”
In the end, Lerner comes to Somers’ defense, to a degree.
“So why does Ms. Somers promote these unproven therapies?,” he wrote. “She said she believes that oncologists do not inform end-stage cancer patients about nontraditional options, and that such people deserve to know. Here Ms. Somers may have a point. Although oncologists are surely under no obligation to promote therapies they believe are useless or harmful, patients — especially those who want to explore every possible avenue — have the right to know that there are unorthodox cancer therapies that some people believe are helpful.”
But, Lerner said, Somers should not be promoting false hope.