Thursday, August 25, 2011

ALS and Dr. Chi

If you have read my earlier post, "My Scars remind me that the past is real," you would know that in 2007 my mother died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease).

ALS is a degenerative neuro-muscular disease which is terminal by all accounts. There is no cure and there is very little known about the disease. My mother came to terms with this but participated in a study of an experimental drug which might slow down the inevitable. Allow her to use her hands or legs a little longer. The thing she felt the study would be most beneficial for was to accumulate data on this terrible ailment. She felt that if she was gonna die she would do some good in the process.

She did the best intelligent thing she could do for herself and for anybody who followed her. She also spent some time visiting Europe before she died and tried to call my father (her estranged husband) to say good by. She looked at the evidence and did the most reasonable thing she could do. I applaud the rationality of that.

My mother had four brothers and one of them is into New Age pseudoscience and lives in NYC. During a visit to New York he scheduled her for an appointment with Doctor Chi. I am not making that name up. I have no idea what his qualifications ad "Doctor" are but he had a title. My mother was 63 at the time. Doctor Chi looked at her eyes, her tongue and her palms and diagnosed her as having evidence of :

High Blood Pressure
Heart Disease
Memory Loss
Acid Reflux
general feminine problems

None of which she suffered from. He also failed to diagnose ALS or some neuro-muscular disease in general. What he did is called "fishing". If you look at that list you will see the statistically most likely candidates that a woman of her age would suffer from. If one of those had been right she might have forgotten the others and remembered that he knew what her illness was by looking at her. He then "prescribed" a regimen of 75 pills per day of "natural supplements" to be taken daily. All of which he sold. By coincidence, I assume.

When I heard about this I laughed and mocked but also felt a little disgusted. This guy was offering medical advice to people in the hopes of solving their medical problems. He was selling snake oil.

My mother declined to mega-dose vitamins and herbs. She took caffeine and ginseng and the drugs prescribed by her doctors. The first two to relieve the fatigue and the latter because it was the best medical advice available to her.

We will fast forward a couple months. My Uncle sent my mother a months supply of all these supplements. They were in bottles without names. Seriously. She did not take them. When he came to visit her the following month she told him she did not take them. He was annoyed because he felt these herbs could cure a disease that is supposedly incurable. He had also spent (we found out then) a thousand dollars on those unlabeled pills. $1,000.00!!!!!!!!!! Holy crap!

By this point my mother had the excuse that she could no longer swallow pills. Unfazed, my uncle took out what looked like a tiny fishnet bag. He proceeded to put the 75 pills in it and tied it to her ankle. He explained that the "energy signature" from the pills would permeate her body through the skin. Not kidding! I am really not!

I guess that is not that far fetched if one accept the principles of Homeopathy that things leave an "energy signature" in the water they are dissolved in even after the point that they have been diluted and re-diluted to the point that there is no trace of the substance in the solution. Just water with an "energy signature".

That is my story. If you have one like it please drop me a line. I would love to hear it.



  1. You know how I feel about people taking the opportunity to push their way of thinking and/or make some money when people are at their most vulnerable. There are far too many people out there parading around, calling themselves "experts" or even "Doctors," preying upon people's fear and pain. I give your mother a lot of credit for being able to be rational during what must have been an incredibly difficult time.

  2. It is especially interesting considering she was not a big time skeptic like myself. She had a general non-denominational-ish god type belief. She kept it general to avoid looking too hard at it. Science, on the other hand, is ripe and ready to examine medical claims. She partook in the joy of science.