Following the death from cancer of a 14-year-old Carinthian girl, the Klagenfurt public prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation against the girl’s parents. In February this year, the 14-year-old was taken to a hospital in Graz, Austria, where she died a few days later from cancer. The hospital filed charges because the tumor had been treated incorrectly with so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).
Investigations are underway on suspicion of torturing or neglecting underage, younger, or defenseless persons. Currently, the accused and witnesses are being questioned. The parents’ lawyer, Alexander Todor-Kostic, stated that the accusations were without any basis and claimed that the 14-year-old girl had decided of her own free will against being treated with chemotherapy and surgery. The parents respected this, allowed her alternative treatment methods, and acted in accordance with the applicable legal situation.
The girl had developed cancer the previous year that was not detected. Instead of seeing conventional oncologists for a reliable diagnosis and effective treatments, the parents consulted private doctors. Instead of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, the girl had deliberately chosen “alternative treatments” herself, the lawyer stressed.
Even though the case has been reported in several Austrian papers, I did not succeed in finding further details about it. In particular, it is unclear what type of cancer the girl had been suffering from and what type of SCAMs she received.
The Austrian skeptic Christian Kreil commented: “Sugar pills in the pharmacies, homeopathic advanced training for doctors, a proliferation of energetics offering every conceivable bullshit … the dead girl is the logical result of this esoteric foolishness covered by politics and chambers.”
I am afraid that he might have a point here: as we have discussed repeatedly on this blog, Austria is currently particularly prone to misinformation about SCAM. Here are a few examples of previous blog posts on this subject:
- Austrian osteopaths seem to violate legal, ethical and moral rules and conventions
- An open letter to the President of the Austrian Medical Association aims to stop medical quackery
- Has the ‘Vienna Medical Association’ taken leave of its senses?
- When politicians become snake-oil salesmen
- Michael Frass’ research into homeopathy for cancer: “numerous breaches of scientific integrity”
- A well-known opponent of vaccination has died of COVID after self-treatment with MMS
- The case of a boy tortured to death with homeopathy
- A truly perplexing homeopath – is it time for an official investigation?
Misinformation about SCAM can be lethal. This is one of the reasons why responsible information is so very important.
In my view, the core problem in this case does not primarily revolve around quackery. There is no question that quackery must be fought. But what this case is about is whether, under Austrian law, a 14-year-old child has the right to decide, perhaps against the parents’ will, to forgo treatment. The fact that subsequent quackery, however malignant, is subsequently resorted to is of secondary importance here. Of course, it would be nice if the so-called doctors who treated the child could still be held liable.
Yes, that could be the case.
However, more likely, in my view, is that the parents ‘persuaded’ their daughter to get SCAM and now deny it.
At present, we don’t have enough information to tell.
@H.T.M. ter Beek
I partially agree. The age of the victim is indeed important. Younger children have been removed from parental care by court order for life-saving treatments, but depending on the country, children themselves can also express their consent (or lack thereof) from age 12 – 14.
However, this consent should be informed consent, and as soon as a cancer diagnosis is evident, the crucial bit of information is that alternative treatments do not work, period. Even if the girl’s parents did not steer the girl’s decision in any way, and she herself believed in alternative cancer treatments with all her heart, there still should have been someone to warn her that rejecting regular cancer treatment would mean a death sentence.
But without more information, all we can do is speculate about what contributed to this poor girl’s death. I would also very much like to know what her alternative practitioner(s) told her – as anyone claiming to dispense healthcare should also know their limitations, and no alternative practitioner should be allowed to even suggest that they can treat or cure cancer.
There is another important question: How and why did that girl get her strong opinion about science based oncology versus whatever SCAM she relied on?
Conventional medicine can kill cancer (and other) patients regularly with impunity. No investigations. No Consequences. Seems like a double standard at work here. When they have a sure-fire cure for cancer then maybe they act without hypocrisy.
thanks, Stan, for this very stupid comment.
Where on earth does ‘Stan’ get his ideas from?
There is a strong injunction on all registered medical practitioners to investigate all patholologies, including death.
The profession has a myriad of systems, checks, balances to do this – from ancient colleges to modern quality governance systems, and the law if regulations or professions are breached.
Are these systems perfect?
No, of course not – but to suggest doctors act regularly “with impunity” and are hypocritical is a baseless assertion and as such – deplorable.
I have no reason to believe Stan is less than an honest person, and can but assume that Stan is simply ignorant.
“I have no reason to believe Stan is less than an honest person, and can but assume that Stan is simply ignorant.
Your arrogance is repulsive, and you are not alone.
In any case, Stan is totally ignorant as to the enormous advances made by conventional medicine over the last 50 years in the treatment of all kinds of cancer.
EXACTLY !, thank you.
Reading Prof. Ernst’s responses is my cardio.
Sadly, about half of American states have laws making it OK for parents to neglect their kids’ health in the name of religion. Truly barbaric.