Natural Selection in Action?

So, this 16 year-old has won his court battle to refuse chemo.  He has Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which is a cancer against which one has a fighting chance, about 85% with chemo, but he, and his parents, decided to forego any more chemo after only 4 treatments, and to instead take some bizarre secret liquid from a Mexican clinic. The fact that his first name is "Starchild" ought to give you some idea of the rationality of his parents, who are probably condemning their child to death by this course of action.

Here's what the American Cancer Society has to say about the treatment he's selected:

There is no evidence that the Hoxsey herbal treatment has any value in the treatment of cancer in humans. In 1946, the National Cancer Institute reviewed 77 case reports of Hoxsey’s patients and concluded that none of them met the criteria for scientific evaluation.

Only 2 human studies of the Hoxsey herbal treatment have been published. One was published in a pamphlet provided by the Tijuana clinic and simply contains a description of 9 patients who received the treatment. It concluded that the treatment is effective, even though most of the Hoxsey-treated patients received standard cancer treatment in addition to the Hoxsey treatment. The other study published in the Journal of Naturopathic Medicine involved 39 people with various types of cancer who took the Hoxsey herbal treatment. Ten patients died after an average of 15 months and 23 never completed the study. Only 6 patients were disease-free after 48 months.

The National Advisory Cancer Council studied many of Hoxsey’s patient records and learned that most of the patients had never had biopsies, so that there was no confirmation that they actually had cancer. The National Cancer Institute investigated 400 patients who were reported as cured by Hoxsey. Patients or their families were interviewed, and all records were carefully reviewed. These patients fell into 3 groups: those who had been treated, but didn’t actually have cancer; those who had received successful conventional cancer treatment before seeing Hoxsey; and those who had cancer and had died of it, or were still alive with evidence of cancer. Out of the 400 cases, not one case of a Hoxsey cure could be documented.

To collect some reliable information, a carefully controlled study of the Hoxsey tonic was performed on rats with tumors. There was no effect in tumor size and growth between the treated and untreated mice. The main ingredient in the tonic, potassium iodide, had been tested already and found to be useless in cancer treatment. However, in some other animal studies, a few of the individual herbs contained in the treatment showed some anti-cancer activity. Even though animal studies may show promise, further studies are needed to find out if the results apply to humans.

If someone wants to pursue alternative therapy, that's their choice. Though I'd demand a double-blind peer-reviewed study before spending any of my money on any alternative treatment for anything. Also, if someone wants to refuse chemotherapy, or any therapy, and accept their fate, that's their right as well. Unfortunately, I think in this case, the boy has been presented with a false choice, as chemotherapy and this "treatment" are not equally valid choices in how you treat the same disease. One has a significant chance to save his life, and the other has no chance. If I were the judge in this case, I'd have had to be damned sure that this kid was fully aware of the research results regarding this "therapy", and knew that he was most likely condemning himself by this action.

Hoxsey used to sell his "medicine" here in the U.S., until the FDA shut him down. Apparently it didn't even work on him:

By 1960, after battling Hoxsey for a decade, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally banned the sale of the Hoxsey herbal treatment in the United States and forced Hoxsey to close all of his clinics in the United States. In 1963, one of Hoxsey’s nurses set up a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. Just before her death in 1999, the clinic was taken over by her sister and still operates today. Hoxsey developed prostate cancer in 1967. When he did not respond to his own treatment, Hoxsey underwent conventional surgery. He died seven years later.