Diego Ballesteros Pino, the director of oncology at the Baja California Health Authority explains that "When a person gets a cancer diagnosis they are so hungry for life. It is human nature to not hear what the oncologists are saying and this gets even stronger when the oncologist has to tell the patient there are no longer treatments that are available for him, that they can no longer guarantee survival and that's when they start looking for hope." And that, he said, is where the alternative therapy clinics step in. "...they are definitely predatory. They're only out to make money. I see many people that come after being cheated out of their money with more advanced stages of cancer. They missed the opportunity to have the conventional medicine. Our first duty is to try to convince them to stop doing the alternative medicine and that is one of the hardest things. And some of them do get better, some of them we are able to save. Some we cannot."
Frank Cousineau, president of the Cancer Control Society believes in the efficacy of alternative cancer therapies. He says people do not need statistics, they need love. "They don't come seeking peer reviewed studies, they come for hope, because hope has been destroyed in the conventional oncology community. Too many oncologists, with a very almost cold hearted demeanor, will tell a patient that nothing can be done for them."
Professor Ian Smith at the UK's Royal Marsden Hospital. He says that while he has never seen a patient cured by alternative therapies, he accepts that the medical profession still has a lot to learn about supporting terminally ill patients who have reached the end of the road as far as conventional medicine is concerned. "It's an important criticism of us I think. We are getting it right now, much more of the sense that we have to support people all the way through and hopefully that's a way we can combat this pressure on patients to go and sell their house and sell everything and have some valueless treatment."
Some of the Tijuana clinics are offering nothing but false hope. There is little or no evidence to support their claims that their strange therapies actually work and there is plenty of evidence that vulnerable people have parted with large sums of money for no reason. ($21,000 for a two week course, a hotel down the road at your own expense and there would be the extras for treatment on return to London.). At the Hospital Santa Monica that was used to be run by an American called Kurt Donsbach a FBI investigation revealed that over an 18 month period he made $32.5m from selling treatments. Donsbach was jailed for a year after pleading guilty in a San Diego court to 13 felony charges including: impersonating a doctor, spiking his internet 'natural' supplements with dangerous and banned pharmaceuticals and falsely telling an undercover FBI agent he had a 60 per cent success rate for treating terminal cancer patients.
Gina Darvas, the San Diego deputy district attorney, collected over 400,000 pages of evidence against him. She says: "Throughout the prosecution he remained fairly defiant and again tried to promote himself as a victim of overzealous prosecution, that the medical establishment was out to silence him for alternative medical opinions .... He said, I have a 60 per cent success rate in getting you another five years of life, and it's only going to cost you $23,000 cash up front and that’s a very powerful and persuasive incentive to someone who has maybe six months to live. It’s preying on the most vulnerable victim that could possibly be found in my view. To run a con on somebody in that situation is a terrible thing to do."