Dying to Believe

This is being cross-posted from Skeptical Analysis:

Some more of the same


It’s Tuesday again, the day we commemorate those who have died or suffered through the consequences of belief. This topic typically, but not always, touches on faith healing, the reliance on prayer over science-based medicine. Searching for something of significance, I came across this:

Mary Vonderscher of Burbank, California, thought faith healing worked. She felt cured of cancer of the spine, she said, even though doctors had thought her case was hopeless. Appearing on an Oral Roberts TV spectacular in mid- 1955, Mrs. Vonderscher gave a glowing testimonial. In January, 1956, relatives of hers in Indiana saw a re-run of this program-just three days before traveling to California for her funeral. Wanda Beach, another believer, was a thirty-seven-year-old diabetic from Detroit. In 1959, after telephoning her mother that Roberts had “completely pletely cured” her, she threw away her insulin. And died.

Stephen Barrett. The Health Robbers: A Close Look at Quackery in America (Consumer Health Library) (Kindle Locations 4488-4491). Kindle Edition.

Those are the opening paragraphs of Chapter 24 of a book by Stephen Barrett and William T. Jarvis. It’s titled The Health Robbers: A Close Look at Quackery in America, and I obtained a copy of the Kindle edition.

I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Barrett 21 years ago when he was in Dallas to  participate in the taping of a TV special on supernatural stuff. It’s one of the topics of interest to The North Texas Skeptics. One of the NTS technical  advisors is Tim Gorski, M.D., at the time head of the DFW Council Against Health Fraud. Stephen Barrett is founder of the national organization, and Jarvis is the current president.

I will be reviewing the book later this year, but in the meantime this column will carry some interesting case studies from Chapter 24.