Motherhood, apple pie, psychosis and anaphylaxis

I’ve been worrying about this for some time now.

How should we, as health professionals, address the deeply held beliefs of our patients when they aren’t true? Especially when they may harm others, although in a fairly obscure or indirect way?

Take the whole ‘Oxygen Kills Cancer’ stuff. Now, it’s true that hypoxic malignant cells in a petri dish die less often than the oxygenated ones. And that when you look a chopped out tumours, those in hypoxic areas can be more alive. But that’s about seventeen steps from ‘If your breathe better you will cure your cancer’. I’m sure that breathing is unlikely to harm anyone. But what about the effect of finding that your, or your child’s, cancer is NOT going away. Does this sort of inaccurate information make you feel much, much worse about the condition you are in? And if you, as a fairly sane sort, don’t indulge; yet the slightly whacky and rich family in the bedroom next door do, and the chips fall badly, what’s the guilt load going to be?

Such health beliefs are, I think, health-faiths. Do we have a right to challenge them, as we probably should of the ‘goodness’ of motherhood and apple pies?

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