Weird medical history, ripped from the archives of Doonesbury


30 Responses to “Weird medical history, ripped from the archives of Doonesbury”

  1. cnoocy says:

    Don’t forget Laetrile’s other classic comics cameo in Watchmen. (It’s the illegal substance that Rorschach attempts to bust Moloch for, leading to a great line by Moloch.)

  2. agraham999 says:

    My mother died of ovarian cancer when I was 12. We traveled the world in her quest for a cure. Laetrile was one of those. 

  3. Oceanconcepts says:

    Post undergrad, in the mid 70′s, I worked a while for an importer and distributor of both medicinal and culinary herbs.  They sponsored a conference, part of which involved an excellent presentation by a couple of MD’s- cancer researchers, as it turned out- on the history of plant derived medicines.  Unfortunately, in the audience were a handful of laetrile true believers.  I listened in slack jawed amazement as they spouted off about government and AMA conspiracies- a virtuoso performance of the crackpot paranoid imagination.  The MD’s did a great job of trying to bring them back to what actually works, explaining why testing and research is perhaps important in evaluating effectiveness, but it was clear that anecdote and paranoia trumped evidence and reason in their world.  I think they’re in the Tea Party now. 

    • retepslluerb says:

      Really? I think they wold have died from cancer by now.

    • Mitchell Glaser says:

      Steve Jobs, a man famous for getting his way in life, had cancer that could likely have been cured by an operation, particularly because it was discovered early enough. But he dicked around with fad diets and lemons and such until it had spread; then it was too late. I am still groping for the moral to that story. I can’t quite put my finger on it, by I know it’s important.

      • retepslluerb says:

        I don’t think it has a moral. But it is a poignant reminder that smart people can make extremely stupid decisions, especially when they are strong willed.

        He was clearly outside his area of expertise – and I truly believe that he was brilliant in many – and chose to disregard the expertise of others. 

  4. Why does it always seem to be up to the skeptics to prove that these quack nostrums DON”T work?

  5. Benjamin Schlotz says:

    I had a nearly identical relationship to doonesbury comics growing up.  I remember asking my mom about precisely this strip, and her telling me it was a drug that didn’t work.  I assumed at the time it was a hallucinogenic drug that didn’t work (given duke’s proclivities), thanks for clearing that up maggie.

    • To this day, I still don’t understand why I laughed as a child at the strip where they have a 1960s-themed costume party and one guy comes as a giant tab of acid. For some reason, the punchline ( “What are you doing this summer?” “I’m thinking of turning on Detroit, man.”) was HILARIOUS to me when I was 9. 

  6. dragonfrog says:

    Interesting that Krebs is German for cancer (well, and for crab).

    •  Aha.  Ta.  Just finished reading Ian Fleming’s Moonraker.  That explains why it’s the name of a minor bad guy.

    • Ernst Krebs actually means serious cancer in German. Though ernst is not used in this context as far as I know

      • dragonfrog says:

        Good point!  My German’s getting rusty, but I think I might use something like ‘ernste Krankheit’ for ‘serious illness’ – but maybe that would imply something more like ‘serious’ as in not a passing cold, rather than ‘serious’ as in potentially fatal…

  7. Heyref says:

    Boy does this make me feel old!  I not only remembered laetrile, but this strip and the whole arc around it (the apricot farm turns out not to exist.)  The story of Steve McQueen’s search for a cure for his mesothelioma was a sad ending to the life of one of the really cool guys.  There was a lot of exposure to asbestos in the film industry in those days (the falling snow in White Christmas is asbestos.)

  8. R J says:

    Fernwood 2-Night. Leisure suits cause cancer. Solution? Laetrile leisure suits.  Thanks for stirring the memory of that show.
    If you enjoy researching pop references found in always satirical sometimes intellectual  newspaper cartoon, Pogo Possum is for you.

  9. Mark Dow says:

    Zonker looks pale. He should get out in the sun more.

  10. Mazoola says:

    Great. I’ve been feeling awfully old lately, with overtones of vulnerability and irreversibleness — and now I feel really, *really* old. Thanks.

    (OK, one last drug/generation gap anecdote:

    (A while back, we were sitting around the dinner table one night, polishing off whatever dribs and drabs were left, when one of our housemates, a woman in her early 20s, asked me to pass her one of the side dishes.

    (Shaking my head, I said, sadly, “I think it’s all gone.” Lifting the lid from the serving dish, I said, “Yep, it’s all down to stems and seeds.”

    (She stared at me blankly.

    (“You know,” I said, “like pot.”

    (She looked even more confused. 

    (“Weed doesn’t have seeds,” she said….)

  11. Neuron says:

    I think of this Doonesbury thread pretty frequently. I even thought of it this afternoon. Every time a reporter does a story about some idea someone has for a new treatment for a disease. Almost all such ideas fail and therefore none of them are newsworthy until they’ve been shown to be (1) effective in humans and (2) reasonably safe.

  12. JBHemlock says:

    I’m with you, mazoola. I woke up this morning not feeling old at all. Thanks, Maggie!

  13. Amelia_G says:

    We’re so lucky to have Doonesbury! It’s a wonderful history of the USA too. So many relevant themes that resurface in our society: But the Pension Fund was Just Sitting There, the oil-CIA connection, even the Donald (Give Those Nymphs Some Hooters).
    During W.’s administration I was concerned that the few examples of “elite”or at least good media the US has are the only ones of their kind and thus precarious. The New Yorker magazine, Doonesbury, Rachel Maddow’s radio show. The Wall Street Journal, fwiw, is tango uniform now… Glad there’s XKCD.

  14. Your readers may not be aware that there has been a decades-long connection between “alternative” health proponents and the extreme right in the United States.  It was true of the laetrile incident of the early 1980s; it was true of the blue-green algae/shark cartilage/colloidal silver fads of the 1990s; and it is true of things like the “raw milk” movement in the 2000s.  The extreme right, especially the anti-government extreme right, not only distrusts governmental authority, but all forms of authority, including the medical establishment, which makes them extremely susceptible to bizarre/quack/alternative medical “theories.”

    • Rachael Hoffman-Dachelet says:

      And there is the strange and surreal place where the extreme right comes around and meets the extreme left on the other side.  I am interested in reading about food justice and organic agriculture issues and often end up shocked to find myself following links to survivalist Christian home-schooling organic sites.  The language of the hippy lefty version and the right wing versions are quite similar. 

  15. Joshua Ward says:

    Actually I know someone right now who uses Laetrile. And ends up in the ER frequently with cyanide-y symptoms. Nice guy. Not too bright, but nice

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