A few months ago, I wrote about a particularly nasty form of cancer quackery known as the “German New Medicine” or Die Germanische Neue Medizin in German. As you may recall, the German New Medicine is based on the nonsensical idea that cancer arises from an internal emotional conflict. This conflict then results in what is called the “Dirk Hamer Syndrome” (DHS) or “Dirk Hamer focus” in the brain, named after Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer‘s son Dirk, who was tragically shot in his sleep by Vittorio Emanuel, the last crown prince of Italy. After a prolonged course requiring multiple operations, Dirk succumbed to his wounds and died. Three years later, Dr. Hamer developed testicular cancer, and, in a perfect case of post hoc ergo propter hoc, Hamer decided that it was the psychic shock of his son’s death that had caused his cancer. Thus was born Die Germanische Neue Medizin, which, according to Hamer, promises a 95% or more chance of curing any cancer, no matter how advanced. Never mind that Hamer apparently underwent a combination of surgery and other “conventional therapies for his testicular cancer. Also never mind that these “Dirk Hamer Focus” to which Hamer pointed on CT scans of the brain appeared, more than anything else, to be artifacts of the imaging process and nothing real.

As I described in my previous post in October, the German New Medicine is a seriously dangerous form of cancer quackery that is not only worthless but in many cases blames the patient for having developed cancer. Evidence can be found in this video, where a proponent of German New Medicine gives as examples of psychic stress a “cancer blow” that comes from menopause, in which loss of estrogen supposedly leads women to feel that they “aren’t the woman they used to be” and that that conflict is manifest in the bone or an athlete’s anger because of an injury that screws up his ability to perform leading to an osteosarcoma of extremity.

Unfortunately, cancer quackery frequently evolves under the selective pressure of competition with other cancer quackeries and based on the unique environments in which various forms of quackery come to land. Since I first wrote my post about Die Germanische Neue Medizin, I’ve been meaning to address one of its offshoots. The particular offshoot that I plan to address is, in essence, the French cousin of Die Germanische Neue Medizin, and it’s called Biologie Totale, or Total Biology (Claude Sabbah’s official site is here, but it’s all in French). I first became aware of Biologie Totale about a year and a half ago through this news story:

A new therapy that claims to cure cancer and other diseases but has been blamed for dozens of deaths in Europe is gaining popularity in Canada, according to a Radio-Canada investigation.

“Total biology” is a therapeutic approach that claims illness is caused by psychological conflicts in the brain.

The approach, also known as new medicine or bio-psycho-genealogy, professes to heal all disease, including AIDS and advanced forms of cancer.

The method is gaining traction in Quebec where patients are often told to ignore their cancer, or stop medical treatment altogether, according to an investigation by CBC’s French-language service.

The similarity of Biologie Totale to German New Medicine should be apparent just from the description above, but Biologie Totale, while resembling German New Medicine, appears to be on the way to “speciating,” so to speak from its precursor, except that Dr. Claude Sabbah appears to have been able to do something that I thought impossible: To make German New Medicine even more ridiculous. It always cracks me up to see such a name, too: Total Biology. Not New Biology (like German New Medicine). Total Biology. Apparently Sabbah thinks that he’s discovered a way of understanding the complete and total biology of the human organism. It would be nice if he did, but he doesn’t, as is demonstrated here:

The Total Biology of Living Beings is a concept that was developed by Claude Sabbah, the fruit of over 35 years of experience. In addition to his medical training (as a specialist in oncology, emergency medicine, sports and hyperbaric medicine and psychotherapy), Claude Sabbah is a researcher, NLP practitioner and a teacher and speaker of world renown. Total Biology integrates the knowledge drawn from several areas of medical specialization, recognized scientific research and various observations on the plant, animal and human realms. The concept sheds light and understanding on the normal functioning of a living creature, how it becomes ill and how it is possible for it to regain health and well being.

NLP, by the way, is neurolinguistic programming, a form of psychotherapy based on the concept that success can be achieved by simply modeling the language, behavior, and thought patterns of successful people. This concept in and of itself sounds very seductive and even fairly reasonable on the surface, but, as our fearless leader Steve Novella pointed out three years ago, research has shown it to be wrong. Steve used the example of an episode of Spongebob Squarepants in which Spongebob’s friend Patrick, envious because Spongebob has won lots of awards and he hasn’t, decides to mimick Spongebob’s every move. As Steve put it, Patrick is an affable loafer, lazy and not too bright, and he is no smarter or any less lazy due to simply mimicking Spongebob’s behavior. However, one can see how someone enamored of NLP might find Hamer’s concepts in German New Medicine to be seductive. Not surprisingly, Dr. Sabbah cites his inspiration as being from Dr. Hamer. Then he, like so many purveyors of pseudoscience, claims to have taken Dr. Hamer’s woo and gone much further:

Claude Sabbah has applied these findings from 1985. Since then, with his years of medical practice, his own findings, with the cooperation with many other researchers and scientists… Claude Sabbah has set the concept of Total Biology which integrates: Dr Hamer’s New Medicine, Modern Western and Asian Medicine, Observation of the Biological Laws of the Fauna & Flora, Biological Cellular Memorized Cycles, NLP, the concept of the mini-Maxi Schizophrenia, Biogenealogy, personal researches, and many more…

Is there any quackery Dr. Sabbah hasn’t mined for his Biologie Totale? More importantly, what, exactly, do Dr. Sabbah and his acolytes spreading like a–if you’ll excuse me–cancer throughout Quebec and Canada tell their patients to do to try to fix the results of these “psychic traumas”? In 2008 Radio Canada journaists went undercover to find out. It isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s an unholy combination of seemingly faith healing and German New Medicine:

He [Sabbah] teaches his approach in six-day seminars offered in France and Canada. He tells students that cancer and other diseases are formed in the brain first, and must be deprogrammed.

During the investigation, Radio-Canada journalists went undercover with hidden cameras seeking medical advice about fictitious diseases.

One of the journalists claimed to have breast cancer. She visited several total biology practitioners who told her that her life was not in danger, and the lump in her breast was the result of a maternal conflict.

She was recommended to stop chemotherapy altogether. During another visit a practitioner told her to drink champagne and relax.

Another undercover journalist who claimed he had prostate cancer was told his ailment was caused by a conflict between his parents at the time of his conception.

He was given orders to recite a prayer 15 times a day.

A CBC television news report can be viewed here. Oddly enough, it notes that Claude Sabbah had suffered a stroke and was recovering, which was why he missed a seminar in Quebec that he had been scheduled to do. Apparently Totale Biologie didn’t save him from that. In any case, the story of the woman with breast cancer sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? Do you remember a woman named Michaela Jakubczyk-Eckert? She had breast cancer, and she listened to Dr. Hamer. She ended up dying a horrible, painful death. It’s a good thing it was just reporters pretending to have breast cancer this time, as any real woman with breast cancer who listened to this nonsense risks suffering the same fate.

It’s also pretty amazing that anyone could think a malignant tumor is the result of a “maternal conflict.” But, as mentioned above, it’s not just this life we have to worry about. According to this quackery, a psychological conflict at conception can result in cancer later in life. But it goes even further than that. Indeed, Biologie Totale is a cornucopia of woo that goes into the past before conception and continues to differentiate into different flavors of Hamer’s concepts. I hadn’t had any idea, but after looking into it I found that it’s somehow become attached to a form of pseudoscience known as Memorized Biological Cellular Cycles and Biodecoding. If you want to get a load of how far this quackery goes by expanding on German New Medicine, read and be amazed at Psycho-biogenealogy & Transgenerational, which gets all lumped together with neurolinguqitic programming in a manner that is hard to believe. Even more amazing, it is now postulated that it’s not just this life we have to worry about. You can apparently have as close to a perfectly “conflict-free” life as there is, but if your parents or grandparents or ancestors even further back had “conflicts,” well, you’re out of luck. These can give you cancer:

Through Dr Hamer’s theories, we understand that diseases, emotional impacts associated with them and memories of traumas can be transmitted to future generations via genes. It seems logical that in some cases the primary programming cause of illness can be found on previous generations.

The modern face of the biogenealogy was mainly developed by Anne Ancelin-Schutzenberger, Doctor in psychology and researcher, who has conducted numerous research programs in Europe, Canada and the US. Her interest in spychogenealogy started when one day, she was concerned by a remark of her daughter who said : ” Do you realize, Mom, you are the elder of 2 children among which the second is dead. Dad is the elder of two children among which the second is dead. You know when uncle Jean-Paul died, I was afraid that my brother dies […] ” Until the day the brother passed away…

Completed by Bert Hellinger’s works on the transgenerational and family constellations, biogenealogy explains the family dynamic and the way of transmission of ancestral memories of traumas. It brings a brand new understanding on how biological, behavioral and psychological patterns are transmitted, and offers amazing technics to deprogram them on the family alienation level. Working on those ancestral memories helps to free ourselves from them as well as the whole lineage from our ancestors to our descendants.

Cancer patients just can’t catch a break, can they? If their developing cancer isn’t their fault for thinking bad thoughts or being unable to overcome “psychic trauma” on their own, then it’s the fault of their family and previous generations! Never mind that there sort of idea is inconsistent with modern biology. In fact, it’s downright Lamarckian! I wonder if Dr. Sabbah is a creationist, too.

So what evidence does Dr. Sabbah and the panoply of other “blame-the-victim” quacks who draw inspiration from Hamer have to back up their claims that Biologie Totale or the many variants of the German New Medicine can cure cancer and pretty much every other disease just through psychotherapy to erase “psychic conflicts”? Do you even have to ask? It’s testimonials all the way down, of course, including these testimonials on various Biologie Totale websites. One testimonial in particular comes from a naturopath (of course) named Olivier Comoy, who claims that he’s seen many people recover from various illnesses but doesn’t specify the illnesses. I’m guessing, however, that Comoy didn’t see a single case of cancer or a non-self-limited disease that was cured by his ministrations. Either that, or he treated diseases with a waxing and waning course, saw the patient during the waning phase of his illness, declared a “cure,” and then sent the patient on his way, never to see the waxing phase return. Certainly there’s nothing like any sort of clinical trials, of even crappy quality, to support it. Unfortunately, there are more and more like him. Worse, it’s metastasizing to the United States, as these testimonials demonstrate.

There are few things I detest more than quacks like these believers in German New Medicine and Biologie Totale preying on the desperation of seriously ill patients. Not only can they not cure any patients, but they actively hurt them by telling them that the means to cure themselves is within them, not caring that the flip side of that message is that if they are not healed by tis quackery it must be their fault for not wanting it enough or not being able to work through some psychic trauma.

But why do people believe in this stuff?

Ever since I first discovered Hamer’s German New Medicine, Sabbah’s Biologie Totale, and the various flavors of this sort of quackery that have proliferated like cockroaches over the last decade, I’ve asked myself why people believe such obvious nonsense. As for a lot of cancer quackery, there is the desperation of patients who are faced with a life-threatening disease like cancer or AIDS or a debilitating chronic disease like multiple sclerosis. But that in and of itself doesn’t strike me as enough. I think part of the answer can be found in passages like this:

In the concept of Total Biology of Living Beings, dis-ease constitutes a perfect solution of the brain to ensure, in the short term, the survival of the organism. The dis-ease is a very precise transpose of an unresolved conflict, conscious or not, into the body.

Dis-eases, health problems and even behavioural problems appear when our conscious thought (our sixth sense) is unable to find a solution to a conflict which is either very intense or long-lasting and which, due to this, generates a stress which affects the whole body collectively. By means of these stresses, from minor to the more severe, the brain will direct the threatening stress to a particular body part or function of the body that is in correspondence with the conflict.

The conflict, once resolved, results in the absence of the dis-ease. However, if there is no solution, the brain will take charge to dispatch into the body and order a mutation of cells which will produce a state of dis-ease. This is the conversion into the biology of an unresolved stress affecting a precise area of the brain.

First, note how “disease” is spelled “dis-ease.” This is a common way of spelling the word on a wide variety of “alternative” medicine sites, and Hamerian woo fits very well into this thinking. For instance, at About.com’s Holistic Healing site, the reason for this spelling is explained thusly:

The term “dis-ease” is used as a substitute for the the word disease by individuals and healing communities who are aligned with wellness. In doing this it is their intent to place emphasis on the natural state of “ease” being imbalanced or disrupted, desiring not to give too much focus to a particular ailment.

Hamerian woo like German New Medicine and Biologie Totale go beyond even this by postulating that diseases afflicting humans aren’t really diseases at all, but rather the body behaving appropriately. But it goes even further by implicitly equating the word “ease” with emotional and psychological ease, with “dis-ease” being due to a buried psychological traumas. Moreover, German New Medicine and Biologie Totale are not unique in this respect of claiming that diseases like cancer and infections are not really diseases at all. Robert O. Young, for instance, postulates that cancer is not a disease as well. In fact, he claims that cancer is an acid liquid of “spoiled cells” and that cancerous tumors are nothing more than the body’s reaction to these “spoiled cells” to protect the rest of the body by encapsulating the cells. He claims the same thing about viruses, characterizing them as “molecular liquids or gases (venom) that can be created by chemical imbalances in humans.” Young even claims that sepsis is not caused by bacterial infection, terming it an “out-fection” which he characterizes as the “cell breaking down from the inside out from an emotional or physical stress or disturbance giving rise to increased acidity.” Amazing how so many of the various forms of woo circle around to blaming psychological trauma for physical diseases, isn’t it? Of course, Young takes an entirely different approach where alkalinization is his answer to everything, but there are echoes of Hamerian woo in a wide variety of “alternative” medicine.

Another example is a “healer” named Andreas Moritz. He’s been mentioned before on SBM for his book on “liver cleanses,” but his woo goes much farther than just that. Most recently, he was the subject of a bit of a blog storm for his having tried to shut down a blog critical of his quackery. What brought on the criticism was an article on his website entitled Cancer Is Not A Disease – It’s a Survival Mechanism. It’s all there: The claim that cancer is not really a disease but is in fact a normal response either to extreme “toxic” insult or to this:

After having seen thousands of cancer patients over a period of three decades, I began to recognize a certain pattern of thinking, believing and feeling that was common to most of them. To be more specific, I have yet to meet a cancer patient who does not feel burdened by some poor self-image, unresolved conflict and worries, or past emotional trauma that still lingers in his/her subconscious. Cancer, the physical disease, cannot occur unless there is a strong undercurrent of emotional uneasiness and deep-seated frustration.

Cancer patients typically suffer from lack of self-respect or worthiness, and often have what I call an “unfinished business” in their life. Cancer can actually be a way of revealing the source of such inner conflict. Furthermore, cancer can help them come to terms with such a conflict, and even heal it altogether. The way to take out weeds is to pull them out along with their roots. This is how we must treat cancer; otherwise, it may recur eventually.

“Poor self image”? Emotional traumas? Is that how mice and other animals develop cancer, too?

Basically, Moritz appears to take concepts from the quackery that is German New Medicine and Biologie Totale but doesn’t limit himself to them given that he clearly believes that exposure to large amounts of “toxic” carcinogens can lead to a collapse of the body’s defenses. More importantly, like Robert Young, he views cancer as a “survival mechanism.” In fact, Moritz calls cancer the “wisdom of the body.” Indeed, he goes so far as to rationalize how tumors can hijack normal physiological processes like angiogenesis (the ingrowth of new blood vessels) as “evidence” that the body doesn’t view cancer as a threat and actually goes out of its way to supply it with blood, oxygen, and nutrients. It never occurs to him that tumors actually trick the body into helping them grow.

Why does so much “alt-med” claim that cancer is actually not a disease but rather an example of the body’s “wisdom” or that cancer is due to unresolved psychological conflicts, past emotional trauma, or poor self-image? I’ve speculated multiple times about why there is this tendency to “blame the victim” in “alt-med,” an undercurrent of “The Secret“-like thought, sometimes implied sometimes explicity, that tells people that they have control over reality if they just want it badly enough. As far as Hamerian woo goes, I think there’s also an undercurrent of a view of nature and the human body that views nature as perfect, where disease (or “dis-ease”) is not because the body malfunctions but because it does what it is designed to do. While there is a germ of truth in this idea, as evidenced by our knowledge of how chronic inflammation can lead to cancer and vascular disease for example, Hamerian woo, like much of alt-med, takes this germ of a reasonable science-based idea and runs off the cliff with it to deny that bacteria can cause sepsis, that HIV can cause AIDS, or that viruses can cause disease.

But it goes even beyond that when it comes to cancer. Cancer is a set of diseases where the body’s own cells turn on it, ignoring the “ease” and “balance” so beloved of “alt-med” believers that normally control cellular proliferation. Cells grow out of control, damaging organs, hijacking the body’s own blood vessels, and parasitizing the body’s nutrient supply. How can that happen if the body is so perfect? There must be a secret “trauma” that leads the body to cause such a reaction to wall off the psychic trauma, of course! Or, if you don’t subscribe to Hamerian woo, then it must be external “toxins,” almost always unnatural human-made evil chemicals that disrupt the happy paradise of the body and must be purged. Come to think of it, it’s not unlike the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with science, including science-based medicine with its chemotherapy, surgery, and drugs playing the role of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Add a whole lot of wishful, magical thinking à la The Secret, creating a world in which either wishing makes it so or overcoming subconscious psychic truamas, and you have a recipe for a belief system that bears far more resemblence to religion than to science.

Posted by David Gorski

Dr. Gorski's full information can be found here, along with information for patients. David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery, where he also serves as the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer Liaison Physician as well as an Associate Professor of Surgery and member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University. If you are a potential patient and found this page through a Google search, please check out Dr. Gorski's biographical information, disclaimers regarding his writings, and notice to patients here.