Consumer Health Digest #07-18
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 8, 2007
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
Evangelistic healer sued for wrongful death and financial improprieties. Darlene Bishop, co-pastor of Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, is being sued by the children of the late country music songwriter Darryl Perry, who died of cancer in May 2005. Bishop is Perry's sister and executor of his estate. The suit accuses her of (a) wrongful death, (b) clergy malpractice, (c) undue influence, (d) coercion, (e) tortuous interference with medical treatment, (f) fraud, (g) tortuous interference with inheritance, and (h) breaches of certain fiduciary duties. The second amended complaint states:
- Although Perry was diagnosed with a treatable cancer, he relied on Bishop for guidance and followed her advice not to undergo standard treatment. Perry also relied on Bishop's claim that she had been healed of breast cancer by a miracle.
- Bishop did not inform Perry that she had never been medically diagnosed and had no medical records to substantiate her claim that she had had a cancer.
- After Perry's death, Bishop misappropriated life insurance policy proceeds ($260,000), other funds, and valuable memorabilia and other personal property items.
Bishop's book, Your Life Follows Your Words, states that she herself had "received a miraculous healing from cancer." However, during a deposition in the case, she admitted that she had never been medically diagnosed with cancer.
Review doubts that group therapy increases cancer survival. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have concluded that there is no compelling evidence linking psychotherapy or support groups with survival among cancer patients. [Coyne JC and others. Psychotherapy and survival in cancer: The conflict between hope and evidence. Psychological Bulletin 133:367-394, 2007] After extensive review, the researchers concluded:
- Previous studies had many methodological and analytical flaws, including the fact that they were not designed to test the hypothesis that psychotherapy extends the lives of cancer patients.
- In the two studies cited most often, the investigators had redefined the purpose of the studies after looking at their data—a practice that is generally not acceptable in biomedicine.
- Subsequent studies have failed to demonstrate a survival benefit that could logically be attributed to psychotherapy.
- There is not enough basis to justify investing additional funding for research in this area.
FDA defends aspartame safety. FDA has severely criticized the study of aspartame entitled, "Long-Term Carcinogenicity Bioassays to Evaluate the Potential Biological Effects, in Particular Carcinogenic, of Aspartame Administered in Feed to Sprague-Dawley Rats," conducted by the European Ramazzini Foundation (ERF) of Bologna, Italy. [FDA Statement on European aspartame study. FDA Web site, April 20, 2007] Aspartame was approved in the United States in 1981 and is one of the most widely used artificial sweeteners. When metabolized by the body, it is broken down into two common amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and trivial amounts of methanol. These three substances are available in similar or greater amounts from eating common foods. The FDA's criticism emphasizes three points:
- The ERF did not comply with FDA's request for full disclosure of the study's data and would not permit the agency to review its pathology slides.
- Based on the available data, there are significant shortcomings in the design, conduct, reporting, and interpretation of this study.
- The pathological changes were incidental and appeared spontaneously in the study animals, and none of the tissue changes reported appear to be related to treatment with aspartame.
- Considering results from many other studies on aspartame's safety, including five previously conducted negative chronic carcinogenicity studies, a recently reported large epidemiology study with negative associations between the use of aspartame and the occurrence of tumors, and negative findings from a series of three transgenic mouse assays, FDA finds no reason to modify its previous conclusion that aspartame is safe as a general purpose sweetener in food.
This page was posted on May 8, 2007.