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Using Voodoo To Outlive Your Doctor

Topics: Lifestyle & Culture | Add A CommentBy admin | May 19, 2009

Can a positive mental attitude help you live longer? Can a terminal prognosis kill you?


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Years ago an acquaintance of mine, upon being diagnosed with cancer, made the joke that “no-one’s ever died of undiagnosed cancer”. Meaning, of course, that he was more concerned about the treatment killing him than the illness. He ignored his doctor’s prognosis of impending death, embraced all of the treatments he could learn about – both traditional and alternative – and took on a sort of punk rock attitude of “if all the other things I’ve done haven’t killed me, this won’t either”. Ten years later, he’s still alive and well. I personally hold the belief – in spite of any solid science to back it up – that mental attitude and spiritual discipline have as much impact on health and wellness as medicine. Which is why I found this New Scientist article about Voodoo fascinating. They actually touch on a topic that seems taboo amongst medical professionals – the powerful effect of placebo and nocebo. While there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence and popular belief that a good attitude can prolong life, it’s hard to find positive stories (from credible sources, that is) about the topic. This ABC story, for instance, focuses on the fact that support groups don’t seem to help cancer patients live longer, while overlooking the fact that these cancer patients are being treated in the same health care system that inspires movies like Sicko. I’d love to hear your story if you have one, especially one like this story about a man who was told by American doctors in the 70′s that he had just months to live. He’s alive and living happily on a Greek island today; all of his American doctors are dead.