Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth
by Professor James Bennett.
Lecture to the Cancer Control Society 1995.
Thanks you ladies and gentlemen its a pleasure to be here and to speak to a group that is truly concerned about cancer, the suffering that it causes, the economic losses that occur every year as a result of this disease. I wish I could say that the same description would apply to the American Cancer Society which is one of the three groups that are analysed in Unhealthy Charities Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth.
Now, one of the things that you would need to understand in order to understand the motivations of the American Cancer Society is that all of the major health charities were formed by physicians specifically with an economic interest in their respective diseases, and the American Cancer Society is no different from the others in this regard and the Board of that organisation had very heavy representation from the medical community.
Now, Id like to start off by simply giving you an overview of this organisation and then talk about why it is impeding, and has for decades, finding the cures for cancer. By the way, you know the American Cancer Society prefers to think that you people dont even exist. That the Cancer Control Society doesnt exist, because it regards itself as THE nations organisation devoted to cancer, not one of the. In any event, about every year the American Cancer Society collect around a third of a billion dollars and the question is where dose this money go? Well a great deal of it goes to build the wealth of the organisation, at the same time that theres tremendous suffering from cancer and theres tremendous needs throughout the nation, and by the way, these needs are what are emphasised repeatedly in their fundraising drives.
The American Cancer Society is an enormously wealthy organisation. It could pay every dime of its bills today and it would have over half a billion dollars in the bank, it could operate for approximately sixteen months without raising another dime from the American public. It holds immense wealth in the form of cash, certificates of deposits, stocks, bonds and particularly land and buildings. Just as one example, you take a look at its Texas division. You wonder if its a car dealership---it owns fifty-six automobiles. Or whether its a real estate speculation company---it has fourteen parcels of raw land and seventeen office buildings. How raw land helps us find a cure for cancer or helps cancer victims is an enigma that I cant fathom.
In addition, the American Cancer Society benefits tremendously the orthodox medical establishment. It subsidises the orthodox medical establishment shamelessly. It practices Robin Hood in reverse going door to door relentlessly dunning donations out of the American public and each year spends more than thirty million dollars supposedly educating health professionals about cancer. Now, health professionals are no different from college professors, CPAs, attorneys, any other profession that has to stay abreast of its field, except that health professionals are one of the highest paid, as a group, individuals in the United States. They can well afford to pay for their own continuing education, but this simply shows, and give us some idea of what the American Cancer Society is all about. Its subsidising the orthodox medical profession.
It also does a great deal for its own executives. At the state division, and there are around fifty seven divisions, as some cities are big enough to have their own divisions, where the programmes are carried of this organisation about fifty cents out of every single dollar goes for salaries, fringe benefits and payroll taxes. You add to that the generous perks such as insurance, travel, club memberships, expense accounts and you can understand very readily why it is that there is very little money left over for helping people who are in need. In some divisions the level of compensation, here in California for example the highest paid state executive when you throw in the benefits with the job the pay rivals that of the president of the United States. Its really a shame. The Salvation Army, which is truly a charity, its leadership makes about a third what the head of the ACS California division makes. They claim to be a business and they need to attract businessmen. Caring and compassion are very rarely used terms with regard to the American Cancer Society. Helping the poor, again, is a very low priority. The American Cancer Society is not alone in this. The American Heart Association spends absolutely nothing on cardiovascular disease sufferers. The Lung Association sends about one half of one percent of its revenue helping lung disease suffers. The American Cancer Society spends about two cents of every dollar that is donated to individual cancer victims. Now, at the same time, vast sums are spent on so-called public education programmes. Basically what we have here is fear mongering. Fear mongering and increasing the demand for patient services. If you have indigestion, if you sneeze, whatever happens you run immediately to your doctor. You may have cancer. No question of that. The question I have for the Cancer Society is as the orthodox medical profession clearly does not understand the disease how do you educate the public about the disease that the Cancer Society or the medical profession itself does not understand.
Now, lets turn to the issue of research. All health charities claim to play a very major role in the research process. The facts show otherwise. For every one dollar spent by the Cancer Society on research the American taxpayer through one of the alphabet agencies of the Federal Government spends about fifteen dollars, the so-called National Cancer Institute. And theres a whole list of Federal Agencies that are involved in cancer research in one form or another. But interestingly enough the role of the Cancer Society plays in my view is largely a negative role in the research process. We have already had a discussion by other speakers of the so-called war on cancer that was begun over twenty years ago. I like to think of it not as a qualified failure but rather as Napoleons defeat at Waterloo. And part of the problem is the role that the Cancer Society plays and other health charities in their respective disease in the research process. They have a stranglehold on research. When the American Cancer Society gives money for research the people to whom it gives money are not looking for causes of and cures for cancer. Thats not the purpose of the grant. The Cancer society gives seed grants, in other words money to their favoured researchers in order for their researchers to get the real bucks from the Federal Government or from private pharmaceutical companies. Because of this their favoured researchers have an inside track. Its very competitive getting money. They have an inside track to getting Government and private sector funds and when you couple that with the concern that the health charities often dominate the publications in their field by controlling whats published in the journals and very much disease researchers are judged by a publish or perish criteria, what you find is that they control the nations research agenda, a research agenda that has produced extremely disappointing results, at least in the case of cancer, in the last forty years.
Worse, their so-called unproven methods of cancer management has resulted in a great deal of alternative therapies such as the ones that are discussed here being very much discouraged and if not persecuted. Its almost like a witch-hunt. And what is even more disgusting is how arrogant and hypocritical these people are. Many of us will remember the campaign waged against Leatrile. The idea was to make it a laughing stock because Leatrile was made out of peach or apricot pits or something of the like. Well, when it came time for Taxol to be introduced, and Taxol, of course, is a drug made from the yew tree, oh, it was hailed as athe second coming, and the reason was very simple, one of the in-group of the orthodox establishment developed it. And so we have this kind of hypocrisy going on.
The same is true of nutrition and cancer. Dr Max Gerson in the fifties was convinced that there were very strong powerful links between nutrition and disease and was systematically persecuted by the American Cancer Society for that, driven out of the United States. They even went to the extent of having the then Senator from Florida, Claude Pepper, hold hearings to discredit the man. And then we find that in 1989 in Cancer Facts and Figures published by the American Cancer Society that, heaven forbid, cancer and nutrition and the links between them is called, and I quote, "this is a new and important area of research". They did not have the simple decency to point out that if we hadnt hounded the hell out of Dr Gerson forty years ago we might know a tremendous amount more about this that we do now. And of course many of us also know that Dr Linus Pauling, a very brilliant biochemist, was never able to get grant funding to test his theories because of the same kind of mentality.
The American Cancer Society, basically, has done a great deal to discourage alternative approaches to cancer. This is a sad thing and its important that this group, as with other health charities, stops persecuting not only alternative therapies, but other organisations that develop to fill the needs, the gaps, that the American Cancer Society is not filling. Its important that the American Cancer Society turn away from its current thrust toward lobbying for Government money to support its coffers and the lifestyle of its executives and to use the regulatory process of government to discourage alternative approaches to medicine, and it needs to return to its charitable roots, it needs to do what it says it does in its fund-raising---helping the needy, the people who cannot help themselves. These groups can do a great deal of good, they have an important, vital role to play because only charities can organise volunteers and the energies of these people but if they dont redirect their orientation theyll do far more harm that good in the process.
Professor James Bennett--- author, researcher, eminent scholar, PhD in Economics at Case Western, hes testified before both houses of Congress and a variety of subjects from small business problems to government reform and oversight, on political lobbying by organisations receiving government funding.
Cancer Control Society, 2043 N. Berendo St, LA, CA 90027. Ph: 213 663 7801.
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