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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

False Hopes and How to Spot a Charlatan…

Updated: October 11th, 2018

So many times I hear of the benefits of a new (or ancient) miracle treatment for dog cancer.  Often these are from someone who has seen the benefit, or believe they see the benefit, of a certain protocol.

The fact is that in most cases these claims have not been established to the point where a “true” statement can be made.  I  put “true” in quotes because truth can be quite subjective, depending on the viewpoint of the believing person.

My version of something that is “true”  is:  a reliable correspondence in experience shared among the majority of people.   This means statements that are “true” can be relied upon most of the time to be the common experience we all share.

The problem with a statement that is true to one but untrue to many is that it can lead to false hopes.

In the world of cancer medicine this is a dangerous thing, since treatment choices often land in the gray zone of ethics and personal opinions.  False hopes lead to disappointments, failures, and errors.

As if that were not enough, false hopes are used to manipulate and prey upon those in emotional distress.  This is a common approach of the charlatan.

You are reading this blog.  Of course, you are searching for information.  This applies to you, so read on….

If your hopes are raised due to information you read or hear somewhere, it could be that the person disseminating the data honestly believes it is true.  Or at least wants to believe it is true.  This latter group can be ferreted out because they will often have a high degree of emotional charge when discussing the topic.

Emotional charge is different from compassion and empathy.  Someone feeling compassion or empathy will make you feel like they are focusing on you.  However, emotional charge in someone speaking to you demands an attention monopoly. It can be “positive” (fanaticism) or it can be “negative” (cynic).

So, what is the point here?  This is a blog about dog cancer, not about psychology.  The reason I am bringing this up is to help empower you in being your dog’s primary health care advocate.  As the person driving the ship, your job is to ferret out the data to help your dog’s well-being.  The first step is gauging it’s validity.

Identifying whether someone in front of you, on line, in publications, radio, TV or whatever, has a compassionate/empathetic viewpoint or a cynical/fanatical viewpoint can be priceless.

Being able to spot a fanatic or a cynic helps you sort the information you are receiving into “useful” or “questionable” groups.  These individuals provide information that is “questionable”. If you feel like you’ve gotten information that is “questionable”, get more data to substantiate or discount it before making it “useful” and acting on it.

Getting more data means more due diligence: second opinions, other sources of information, references, publications, analysis, and so on.

Being able to identify the fanatic or the cynic is very useful. This was one of the techniques I used in sifting through miles of cancer claims to produce the Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

Hope you use it to your loved dog’s benefit!

Best to all,

Dr D

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