BELGIQUE

Charles BERLINER

- Doctor
- Member of C.I.A.O.S.N. (Centre d’Informations et d’Avis sur les Organisations Sectaires Nuisibles - Information and Advisory Centre on Harmful Sectarian Organisations) a Belgian governmental body
- President of A.V.P.I.M. (Association of Victims of Illegal Practices in Medicine)

Concrete cases presentation

Introduction

  1. All sick people, without exception, including those suffering from "minor" pathologies, have the right to the best possible medical treatment. This means that the people most qualified to dispense this medical treatment are medical practitioners who have followed a complete official programme of medical studies.
  2. I am not however, an uncompromising opponent of alternative medicines.
  3. They are widely used on the African and South American continents, on the Indian sub-continent as well as in China, where they are an integral part of local culture in economically disadvantaged areas which do not yet have access to our Western technology. Likewise, a growing number of Western doctors use these medicines for generally benign and specific pathologies with a certain level of success it appears.

  4. I would certainly never have become involved with these issues had there not been accidents or victims. In my opinion, the victim aspect is the predictable and inevitable consequence of the current Western infatuation with alternative medicine.
  5. It was through listening to the accounts of Annaëlle’s parents in 1991, as well as to the stories of other patients in the past twelve years that led me to the following conclusion: "soft" medicine can become "hard" when it tries to get in the way of, or substitute itself for conventional medicine, or when it is used ill-advisedly, most often without any serious diagnostic basis and by incompetent practitioners in the medical field.

I. - Annaëlle’s Story

Annaëlle was the small child born with Down’s syndrome to a 38 year old mother. This latter, an occupational therapist, worked in the psychiatric unit of a university hospital in the capital and had, for several years, become a patient of a "healer", Anne V.

Annaëlle was not only afflicted by Down ’s syndrome, but also had a congenital heart malformation. Unfortunately, Annaëlle never underwent corrective surgery, which would have enabled her to lead a normal life. The catheterisation which should have been performed at the age of three months was refused by Anne V. and her scientific referring agent, Dr. ML. This therapeutic abstention all too predictably led to growing cardiac decompensation, with a significant deterioration in the overall health of the child. And it was in these already very tough conditions that Annaëlle went on to develop leukaemia. This was only diagnosed at a very late stage, during holidays spent in Crete. After having received initial healthcare in the Children’s Hospital in Brussels, and before having been able to benefit from the chemotherapy that might have saved her, she was suddenly taken out of the hospital, where, as the healer/guru would have it, she was going to die. Which is precisely what Annaëlle did 72 hours later, deprived of all treatment. In the last few months of her daughter’s life, the mother started to question the abilities of the healer, and systematically started to take notes after each contact with members of this highly cultish health network. Taken with surgical precision, these notes are a real candid camera enabling us to understand the role played by the various people, throwing light on the ideological climate reigning within this sect/cult. The cult included several metamorphosis massage practitioners, diviners and physio-osteopaths, as well as a homeopathic doctor from Brussels.

Considerations about this case and on the implementation of a sectarian/cultic system

  1. Just like their leading theoreticians (Crevecoeur, Lanctôt, Dr. G from the Grail movement, etc), these pseudo-therapists have an aggressive stance towards traditional medicine which I consider simplistic anti-medicalism. Amongst other things in this mixture, we find dogma according to which the cause carries more importance than the symptoms, a belief in reincarnation and the resulting playing down of death, a vision of medicine which places the authority on energy and an all-powerful spirituality, the inescapable role of the all-powerful psyche in the triggering of all illnesses.
    All these elements figure in New Age ethos, which surfaced in the USA during the 1970s. This approach, which has influenced the positions of some politicians on health matters, has a very reactionary position, particularly as regards vaccination.

  2. Through other accounts, I have also observed that some patients place their trust in a therapist too easily, irrespective of his official qualifications, as long as the therapist treats them well and gives them the assistance they require. Furthermore, this confusion is often created and maintained by practitioners who have no qualms about calling themselves doctors, wearing white medical coats and impressing their patients with a great many diplomas liberally sprinkled across their office walls, or even giving themselves vague titles (D.O = Doctor in Osteopathy or Diploma in Osteopathy?).
  3. A young homeopathic doctor had been "used" by the healer as scientific caution, but at no time had he practiced "normal" conventional medicine, even though he saw the child seven times.
    On no occasion did he prescribe any proper treatment.
    It was he who authorised the trip to Crete for a child who already presented major anaemia which justified a hospitalisation in urgency.
    As a result of these extremely serious facts, he was struck off by his regional Doctor’s Council.
    Dr. ML practiced homeopathy and so-called metamorphosis massage, prescribing treatments derived from anthroposophy.

The fundamental question I ask myself when I see the behaviour of this doctor is as follows:

What should be done with a doctor practising a version of medicine diametrically opposed to the medicine he learned at university, and which makes him all the more dangerous, as he benefits of the credit bestowed on him by his official title?

The case of Dr. ML leads to another worrying question: why is the practice of homeopathy particularly exposed to such a lack of control?

In my opinion, the answer above all lies in the theory contained within homeopathy. This "natural" medicine tailored for each patient aims at stimulating our powers of self-healing, through acting on our own "turf". This practice, which rejects chemical medicines out of hand, and which distances itself from surgery and other treatments deemed as being too aggressive, has always been opposed to conventional medicine. The manner used to treat the patient is also very different: the homeopath devotes most of his appointments to long periods of questioning, with physical examination being relegated to a bare minimum.

  1. The career of the guru A.V.R. . A serious accident had forced her to give up her career as a lawyer and take two years’ off, which she used to learn about alternative medicine and esotericism, particularly divination. She started out as a diviner by initially seeing people who needed to make important decisions: marriage, purchase a house, change their profession, etc. At the same time, her interest in health issues developed.
    One of her articles can be seen in an alternative medicine magazine, about the beneficial effects of Dr. Kousmine’s treatment for inflammatory rheumatism and multiple sclerosis. To remind you, Mrs. Kousmine is a Swiss doctor who attributed most illnesses to bad eating habits and praised the beneficial effects of cold pressed oils, as well as enemas.
    It is only in a second phase that Anne V. gradually involved herself with serious illnesses, mainly different forms of cancer, AIDS, drug addictions and degenerative illnesses.
    Anne V. gradually surrounded herself with mainly female staff chosen from those she had "healed" and then trained. She regularly gave homeopathic prescriptions to her patients, recommended places for their quality of their "energy", sent patients to follow courses in Tai Chi and even to metamorphosis massage practitioners and osteopaths with no medical training.
    Little by little, she found herself with a long list of patients and an entourage of around twenty people over whom she exercised absolute power, not hesitating to punish them or temporarily exclude them. Probably without consciously meaning to, this woman therefore created a healing sect/cult. This sect/cult was "officially" disbanded after the death of Annaëlle, and according to well informed sources, Anne V. went to live in the North of France to escape Belgian justice. If she has never been arrested or put on trial, it is because Annaëlle’s parents never decided to lodge a complaint and because Belgian national ant-cult associations may not currently be party to legal proceedings.

  2. But this tragedy, heralding the end of AV’s career, did have some prior warning signs: a young girl in the care of AV. "displaying" signs of encephalitis was prescribed MALOPRIM by Dr. ML – a medicine which caused extreme methemoglobinuria, which has thankfully now disappeared. The son of one of the people who worked closely with this doctor had severe gastro-enteritis, which the doctor "treated". This boy narrowly escaped death through being hospitalised in extremis.

    I have been given a great many accounts over the telephone since 1992, and I have met over a hundred victims who came to tell me about the devastating effects of medicine they were given, about which the only thing truly medical was the name.
    Through hearing about these often serious experiences little by little, I became aware of the links that exist between cults and alternative medicine.

II. The story of Cécile’s mother

The second story is that of Cécile, a very young girl – a student of journalism with an astonishing level of maturity, who contacted me shortly after the death of her mother. She was in shock, incapable of accepting that her mother had died before her time through the fault of a doctor who had deprived her of the treatment needed for her illness.

The facts

Her mother made an appointment with a serious gynaecologist for the first time on 18/1/1995, at least two and a half years after discovering a tumour in her right breast that Dr. G. treated with "conjonctil viscum album" and clay packs.
She then had a full check-up, except for scintiscanning of bone, which was refused by order of Dr. G., and then had a mastectomy with axillary treatment on 27/1/1995, followed by cobalt therapy. But she refused chemotherapy even though the prognosis was returned with several unfavourable aspects (her young age, a large tumour, etc). Dr. G. then prescribed trace elements, vitamin A, viscum album and Serocytol suppositories.
She went back to her gynaecologist on 27/10/1996 for a general check-up and was finally convinced to undergo combination chemotherapy. After an initial reduction in her ailments, the chemotherapy and radiotherapy cures applied at too late a stage failed to prevent her death on 11/8/1997. We should note that in the meantime, she refused a blood transfusion and voluntarily reduced her dose of painkillers.
In his conclusions, the gynaecologist stated: "while the patient refuses – as was the case on several occasions – certain examinations or certain treatments, her refusal was often motivated by the opinion she received from Dr. G., in whom she placed a level of confidence as astonishing as it was unshakeable." He added that he had never received any letters from this doctor, whereas he had always written giving information about his patient.

Some views on this serious and dramatic case.

  1. Dr. G. was a homeopathic doctor at the time of these events, well known in the Lille region. A bitter opponent of conventional medicine, which according to Cécile, "he demonised without restraint and regarded with the greatest disdain", he has also been mentioned in the case of the death of Evelyne B. in 1996
  2. Dr. G. kept his patient completely in the dark about the nature of her illness for two years. He only sent his patient for surgery at a stage when surgery was totally unavoidable. He discouraged his patient from following a course of conventional chemotherapy, giving preference to very expensive homeopathic treatments for this woman of modest means, as well as a very meagre and strict diet.
    And still in the name of his cult/sect’s way of thinking, he allowed his patient to end her days suffering great pain, while the Hippocratic oath obliges doctors to relieve patients’ suffering in all cases if they cannot cure them.

    He basically scorned the ethical code, which states:

    1. that the doctor must keep abreast of developments in medical science in order ensure the best possible treatment for his patients.
    2. that the doctor must not exceed his abilities.
    3. that the doctor shall not come into conflict with his patient through philosophical, religious or political convictions.

    But what did Dr. G. do?

    He abused the influence he had over his patient in her very weak state, in order to indoctrinate and draw her into his sect/cult. Dr. G. has written several books under an assumed name, that he makes his patients read. During her illness, she therefore became an ardent follower of the Grail sect/cult:

    • which scorns conventional medicine,
    • forbids radiotherapy, because it makes holes in the astral body,
    • encourages physical suffering, which is always deserved and guarantees us a happier hereafter.
    • In his book "The Sick Man of Civilisation", he claims that Man is responsible for his ailments, and that these are contracted over the course of a series of previous lives, and that a number of karmic illnesses exist that we need to suffer now to have a better life after death
    • and finally believes that the doctor does not really have a role as a therapist, but is rather simply a life counsellor.

    Wholly under the influence of her guru, a major leader of the Grail sect/cult in the Northern France region, she refused to concede any doubt, and she cut herself off from her friends and her loved ones, rejecting everyone who did not share her convictions.
    If her eldest daughter managed to keep a cool head, it wasn’t the same for her younger sister, who followed her mother into the cult, and experienced great difficulties in getting out of this mental prison after the death of her mother.

  3. How can we not worry when we know that Dr. G. and his colleagues, all members of the Grail sect/cult, have been giving one of the most important homeopathy courses in Belgium for the past twenty years?
  4. Dr. G. has finally been struck off from the medical profession. However, he continues as a speaker for one of the largest homeopathic medicine companies, and practices medicine in Belgium with two separate practices (Tournai and Brussels).

III. The Case of Mrs. N.

In May 2002, a breast screening by Dr. L. showed a ductal carcinoma, probably in many locations. A date for surgical intervention was set in June.
Before taking her decision, N, a 38 year-old artist and mother of young children, consulted Dr. VDB. She was convinced that the removal of her breast would bring her career to an end.
The anamnesis of this doctor, a follower of Drs. Hamer and Sabbah, described her as "a grandmother, psychologically stricken by the death of her child, who was crushed by a falling wardrobe and by the death of her second child as a baby, a grandmother who would end by dying such a short time after this second tragedy". Dr. VDB also noted "the extraction of a wisdom tooth in 1992 looked upon as a kind of rape".
On learning that she was being "cared for" by Fr. VDB, the gynaecologist who gave the original diagnosis put forward a complaint to the Medical Council, which called on Dr. VDB on several occasions to force him to refer his patient back to conventional medicine. In the meantime, Mrs. N. contacted her parents living in Japan, and accused her mother of being responsible for the disease (problems with the left breast come as a consequence of a conflict with the mother, according to Hamer!). She contacted a shaman, to try and find out about her past lives and if anything happened with her ancestors!
After endless hesitations, and because she developed a lymphatic oedema of the left arm, in spite of the promises of a cure from Dr. VDB, the patient finally agreed to see an oncologist.

In the opinion of an eminent university professor and gynaecologist, Dr. VDB became involved in his patient’s fears and backed up her refusal, in the name of her holistic and extreme approach.

The careers of Dr. VDB and Anne V. converged in 1986 when they attended a significant annual conference for alternative medicine in Monaco. Dr. VDB gave Anne V. encouragement in her new professional direction.
This doctor, who is also a homeopath, has had a very individual way of practising his profession right from the outset.

*In Dr. Sabbah’s case, Hamer’s theory was "improved" with psychogenealogical analysis. This analysis would have it that it is through unconscious family loyalty that we repeat the experiences of our ancestors. Following this way of thinking, frequent sore throats come as a result of an ancestor being beheaded during the revolution exactly 170 years ago. Playing this historical episode out as a psychodrama alleviates all the symptoms.

Dr. Sabbah, Hamer’s heir, mostly keeps to the same line as his mentor, but skilfully protects himself from legal action being taken against him by officially requesting his audience not to interrupt the serious treatments underway. An account by one of his students who followed a four day training course does confirm, however, the Claude Sebbah speaks very harshly of conventional medicine. After having personally attended two three-hour long talks, I can confirm that this doctor, who withdrew from his profession before being struck off, does spread a subtly anti-medical message.

Provisional conclusions

This leaflet, edited by the Belgium’s French speaking Community, met with considerable public success, but led its creators to defend no fewer than five lawsuits, which were all lost by the complainants.

Marseilles, March 27-28 2004