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humanities 289 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 We are much in Shelagh Grant=s debt for the resolute research, skilful writing, and compassionate nature that have brought us this sad and telling story. (PETER H. RUSSELL) Barbara Clow. Negotiating Disease: Power and Cancer Care, 1900B1950 McGill-Queen=s University Press 2001. xviii, 238. $65.00, $27.95 The act of negotiation suggests exchange, discussion, and communal resolution among involved participants. It implies the exercise of power, albeit to varying degrees, by the various parties. In this book, Negotiating Disease: Power and Cancer Care, 1900B1950, Barbara Clow presents the history of cancer within this framework of negotiation, exploring the dynamics between the sufferers, healers, even politicians in their search for understanding and treatment of this dreaded disease in the first half of the twentieth century. Conventional medicine struggled to understand the cause of the disease, endorsing surgery, radiation, and radium therapies as the best treatment of the day, but they could not profess a cure for cancer. Using Ontario as a case study, Clow argues that many patients found alternative medicine practices for cancer care to be credible and beneficial. She contends that >the health culture of North America during the first half of the twentieth century was pluralistic, rather than monopolistic,= thus leading to contested terrain in terms of >whose views of health, illness and healing prevailed in medical encounters, in health care policy, in health culture.= Patients and practitioners, as well as politicians and legislators, were negotiating the boundaries of medical authority in cancer care. Contrary to our assumptions concerning medical authority in this period, power did not rest solely with conventional medical practitioners. The opening chapters of the book describe lay perceptions of illness and treatment as well as the medical profession=s understanding of cancer and their search for a cure. This is essential groundwork for Clow=s discussion of alternative medicine=s challenge to conventional cancer care in the remainder of the book. In chapters 3, 4, and 5, she presents the alternative cancer treatments advocated by Hendry Connell, John Hett, and Rene Caisse, and ensuing responses from patients, the medical community, and politicians. Hendry Connell, a medical doctor, administered >Ensol,= an enzyme solution as a treatment for cancer to several patients and published his findings in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in the mid-1930s. His work was not without problems, yet he received the support of the medical profession and provincial politicians who were excited by the possibilities of this research. John Hett, another medical doctor, advocated a cancer serum therapy to correct endocrine imbalances and to stimulate antibodies in cancer patients to combat the disease. His treatment raised greater professional criticism than Connell=s, yet was tolerated by the medical 290 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 community as a result of his status as a doctor presenting a treatment based on scientific factors of irritation, endocrine imbalance, and viral infection. Rene Caisse offered a herbal tea, a combination of burdock root, sheep sorrel, rhubarb root, and slippery elm bark, called >Essiac= (>Caisse= spelled backwards), to destroy cancer cells and to remove toxins from the body. A nurse by training, Caisse did not enjoy similar professional support. Despite her popularity among the laity, her work drew much opposition and outright scepticism from the medical community. Moreover, Hett and Caisse kept their remedies secret, further raising the eyebrows of the profession. According to Clow, >Connell was described as an experimenter ... Hett was depicted as maverick ... Caisse was considered a quack.= In the final chapter, we learn that the cancer treatments of Connell, Hett and Caisse did not survive the postBSecond World War era when the authority of scientific medicine left no room for alternative practices. What makes this story of power and cancer care particularly gripping is the patient experience, a surprisingly overlooked component in many historical studies of disease and treatment. Clow describes how Beatrix Leacock, wife of Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock, more calmly accepted the fate of her breast cancer than her husband did, dying only weeks after her diagnosis. In contrast, M.A.M. sought out...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 289-290
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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