I follow some Australian skeptics’ blogs, mainly because of Meryl Dorey, the lunatic who runs the Anti-Vaccination movement in Australia. One of the better ones is Dan’s Journal of Skepticism, run by Dan Buzzard. He writes on a lot of issues with regards to pseudoscience, mostly in medicine. Earlier this year, he wrote about how a homeopath, Francine Scrayen, treated her “patient”, Penelope Dingle, who was suffering from rectal cancer, with homeopathic potions and lotions.
In the report on Ms. Dingle’s death, the Coroner for Perth (Australia) reported the following:
In my view the deceased’s rectal cancer was present and causing bleeding and other symptoms from at least 31 October 2001. During the period 31 October 2001 until at least the end of November 2002, the deceased regularly described the symptoms of her rectal cancer to a homeopath, Francine Scrayen. It was not until November 2002 that Mrs Scrayen and the deceased discussed the possibility of reporting her rectal bleeding to a medical practitioner and it was not until 5 December 2002 that she first reported those problems to a doctor.
I accept that Mrs Scrayen believed that the deceased had suffered from haemorrhoids years earlier and the bleeding and pain was “an old symptom coming back”, but a competent health professional would have been alarmed by the developing symptoms and would have strongly advised that appropriate medical investigations be conducted without delay.
Mrs Scrayen was not a competent health professional. I accept that Mrs Scrayen had minimal understanding of relevant health issues, unfortunately that did not prevent her from treating the deceased as a patient.
This case has highlighted the importance of patients suffering from cancer making informed, sound decisions in relation to their treatment. In this case the deceased paid a terrible price for poor decision making.
Unfortunately the deceased was surrounded by misinformation and poor science. Although her treating surgeon and mainstream general practitioner provided clear and reliable information, she received mixed messages from a number of different sources which caused her to initially delay necessary surgery and ultimately decide not to have surgery until it was too late.