A regional court in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt has sentenced a natural healing practitioner, i.e. Heilpraktiker, and her supplier to jail for fraud. The pair were found to have deceived patients suffering from terminal cancer to put their faith in a remedy that they touted as a miracle cure. The practitioner was jailed for three years for her part in the scam, while the supplier was sentenced to six years and nine months.
The defendants in the case were a 57-year-old Heilpraktiker from the town of Schrobenhausen and a 68-year-old businessman from Ingolstadt who supplied the preparation. Both defendants were said to have promoted the remedy BG-Mun, saying that it could quickly cure cancer without any evidence of this being the case.
The court heard that patients paid up to €6,000 for the remedy. According to the court, the practitioner had boasted of “great successes” with one patient, Sabine H., who had acquired the remedy and stopped her course of chemotherapy at the defendant’s advice. The court was told that the pair would have known at this point that the substance would have no effect. A drug researcher from the University of Bremen had described the defendants’ actions as “profiteering” from the suffering of desperate patients. “Ultimately, it is a hustle against those who really are clutching at straws when it comes to their illness,” he said.
Even after the death of former patients, the defendants continued to promote their bogus remedy, the prosecutor emphasized. The Heilpraktiker advised several patients to rely exclusively on BG-Mun for their treatment and to discontinue the chemotherapy advised by orthodox medicine.
The defense lawyers demanded a comprehensive acquittal for both clients. The central argument: Both the Heilpraktiker and the entrepreneur had tried BG-Mun on themselves, found it helpful and therefore believed in its effect. The two had therefore acted without any intention to deceive. Without an intention to deceive, however, there is no fraud. In addition, BG-Mun had only ever been advertised as a “component in an overall therapy” and never as a sole medicine. According to the defense lawyers, BG-Mun is a means of alternative medicine and “therefore does not belong to evidence-based medicine”. In the opinion of the lawyers, empirical effectiveness, therefore, does not have to be proven. The public prosecutor, on the other hand, quoted experts who say that BG-Mun is a protein solution that has no effect whatsoever against cancer and is also not approved as a medicine.
Elsewhere it had been reported that the court also dealt with the charge of misuse of title, specifically with the fact that the Heilpraktiker used the title of professor orally and also on advertising flyers. The title of professor comes from an educational institution in the USA, which itself is not recognized as a university in the USA. The German Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs does not recognize this title in this country and calls it a “decorative certificate”.
What I find particularly fascinating about this case is that the defense lawyers claimed, that BG-Mun is a means of alternative medicine and “therefore does not belong to evidence-based medicine”. This type of argument crops up regularly when quacks go to trial. I am not a legal expert and can thus only judge it from a medical point of view. Medically speaking, I find it hard to think of an argument that is more ridiculous than this one. To me, it seems like saying: “I am a charlatan and therefore you cannot judge by by the standards of regular healthcare.”
The second argument of the defense is hardy any better: “I was convinced that it worked, therefore, my prescribing it was honest and correct.” Imagine a doctor saying such nonsense! The argument makes a mockery of evidence by replacing it with belief. I am glad that the German court did not fall for such pseudo-arguments.