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The Death of Debbie Benson

Submitted by Kenneth Spiker, Fort Bragg, California

My good friend Debbie Benson died July 15, 1997, at age fifty-five. I had known her for thirty years. Her official diagnosis was breast cancer, but she was really a victim of quackery. Conventional treatment might have saved her, but she rejected the advice of her oncologist and went to "natural healers."

Debbie was a registered nurse at the Kaiser hospital in Portland, Oregon, but she had a deep distrust of standard medical practice. She didn't have a mammogram for nine years, and when she did -- in March 1996 -- it showed a cancerous lump in her breast. She had the lump removed, but she refused the additional treatment her doctor recommended. Instead she went to a naturopath who gave her -- among other things -- some "Pesticide Removal Tinctures."

Soon after that, lymph nodes swelled in Debbie's armpit. The naturopath said that this was merely the effect of the herbal remedies he was giving her and not to worry. Belatedly, she returned to her oncologist at Kaiser hospital, where the lymph nodes were biopsied and found to be cancerous. Once again, she refused the recommended treatment. Unfortunately, the cancer was spreading throughout her body.

Debbie continued to patronize "alternative healers" in the Portland area. One even claimed to diagnose her with a pendulum! She found another lump in her breast, but the cancer had invaded her liver and was no longer treatable by standard methods.

During the last weeks of her life, another naturopath gave Debbie a skin preparation that was supposed to draw the tumor out of her. This stuff caused an ugly open sore on her breast. By this time, her liver was failing and she felt awful. The naturopath told Debbie she was feeling bad as a result of this medicine, and to get more sleep. When Debbie became too weak to get out of bed and the imminence of her death was obvious, the naturopath blamed Debbie's turn for the worse on "giving up."

I have reported Debbie's mistreatment to state regulatory agencies, and they are investigating.

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