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368,379 people killed, 306,096 injured and over $2,815,931,000 in economic damages

What's the harm in alternative medicine?

Complementary or alternative medicine works outside the evidence-based realm of science. This area includes alt-med stories that don't fit into any of our other categories.  Read more about alternative medicine

Here are 276 people who were harmed by someone not thinking critically.

Lady Sally Baldwin

Oxford, England

Died (untreated breast cancer)

She travelled to Tijuana, Mexico to seek an alternative treatment for her breast cancer. She continued the "Gerson therapy" at home, but died two years later. Read more

Philip Barasa

Bungoma, Kenya

Genitals mutilated
March 2005

The AIDS epidemic in Africa has spawned many quack cures. Philip was attacked in the belief that his genitals could be used to make an HIV/AIDS potion. Read more

Photo of Debbie Benson

Debbie Benson

Age: 55
Fort Bragg, California

Died (cancer)
July 15, 1997

She had a deep distrust of traditional medicine, so she sought out naturopaths and other alternative practitioners for her breast cancer. It raged out of control and she died. Read more

Marcia Bergeron

Age: 57
Quadra Island, British Columbia, Canada

Died (poisoning)
December 26, 2006

She distrusted conventional medicine, so she decided to self-medicate using pills purchased from a Canadian online pharmacy. What she didn't know was the pharmacy was not actually Canadian and the pills were tainted with toxic heavy metals. Read more

JoAnn Burggraf

Age: 58
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Died (undiagnosed leukemia)
October 2005

Energy medicine, Quack medical device, (EPFX) Read more

Antonio Campos

Age: 5 months
Los Angeles, California

Died (untreated cancer)

Antonio's mother looked for an alternative to the painful chemotherapy treatments he needed for cancer. She found a clinic using a energy medicine machine. Antonio died anyway. Read more & more

Julianne Charell

Age: 64
New York City, New York


She searched for an alternative treatment for uterine cancer. The practitioner she found prescribed ridiculous treatments and declared her cured when she was not. A court fined him over $2.5 million. Read more

Skip Coombs

Age: 32

March 1993

Seeking a cure for AIDS, he traveled from his home in North Carolina to Arizona for an intravenous treatment. He was taken across the border into Mexico for the treatment. He died four months later. Read more

Photo of Sylvie Cousseau

Sylvie Cousseau

Age: 41
Paris, France

March 31, 2001

Sylvie was diagnosed HIV positive, but pursued alternative treatments for her disease including homeopathy, acupuncture and drinking her own urine. She eventually died of AIDS. Read more & more & more

Lucille Craven

Age: 54
Pelham, New Hampshire

Died (untreated cancer)

Lucille concealed the diagnosis of breast cancer from her family. She secretly consulted a naturopath and took homeopathic remedies. She also used quack treatments like blood irradiation. Her cancer raged out of control and she died. Read more

Patti Davis

Age: 39
Sacramento, California

Died (cancer)
March 20, 1999

Patti's relatives encouraged her to have conventional breast cancer treatments, Her mother had survived for 22 years using them. Instead she pursued quack alternative treatments at a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. She died. Read more

Photo of Tyrell Dueck

Tyrell Dueck

Age: 13
Martensville, Saskatchewan, Canada

Died (cancer)
June 30, 1999

He got bone cancer in his leg, but rejected amputation and chemotherapy. Instead he sought alternative and herbal therapy in Mexico. The Saskatchewan government sued to force conventional treatment. The cancer spread and he died. Read more & more

Dominik Feld

Age: 9
Siegen, Germany

Died (untreated cancer)
November 2004

His parents chose an alternative treatment for his cancer involving vitamin and mineral doses. The government tried to intervene. The boy eventually died. Read more

Sean Flanagan

Age: 19
Wheat Ridge, Colorado

December 19, 2003

Sean was dying of cancer, there was no stopping it. His parents sought out alternative therapies simply to ease his pain. A naturopath claimed he could cure him. Nine days after starting treatment, he was dead. The naturopath was sentenced to prison. Read more & more

Mr. Fowden

Age: 49
Sandy, Utah


After finding a brain tumor, his doctors recommended chemotherapy and radiation. His wife hated conventional medicine and insisted on a natural cure. He died within three weeks. Read more

Photo of Ed Gochenour

Ed Gochenour

Age: 46
Macon, Georgia

Died (cancer)
November 7, 1999

A member of the Georgia State Senate, he treated his brain tumor using an alternative treatment from a doctor in Texas. That doctor was prosecuted by the FDA and Ed testified on his behalf, claiming he cured his cancer. 21 months later he was dead. Read more & more & more

Chad Green

Age: 3
Scituate, Massachusetts

Died (cyanide poisoning)
October 12, 1979

His leukemia was in remission via chemotherapy, but his parents sought out alternative therapy anyway. When he showed signs of cyanide toxicity (from laetrile) he was made a ward of the state. He later died. Read more & more

Ellen Green

Post Falls, Idaho

Died (untreated cancer)
January 2005

Ellen's husband (a massage therapist) bought a PAP-IMI energy medicine machine for his practice. She tried to use it to cure her own breast cancer. She did not succeed. Read more

Petra Hall

Age: 54
Hamilton, Michigan

February 6, 1996

An osteopath injected Petra with herbal tea to treat her leukemia. Later that day she was in a hospital with multiple organ failure. She died 11 days later. The osteopath was fined and got five years of probation. Read more & more

Photo of Stephen Hall

Stephen Hall

Age: 43
Poole, Dorset, England

Died (untreated cancer)
June 2002

He sought out alternative treatment for his pancreatic cancer. He was sold a medical device and other cures. He died 10 weeks later. His practitioner was later convicted of two crimes related to his case. Read more & more & more

Ruth Hanna

St. Louis, Missouri

January 24, 2007

She pursued a treatment for her cancer called insulin potentiation therapy. There is very little scientific evidence that this treatment works. She died of cancer. Read more & more

Betty Harlan

Age: 76
Windsor, Wisconsin

May 9, 2005

Betty had multiple chronic health problems including diabetes. Seeking treatment for a leg ulcer, she went to a wellness center run by a naturopath. Her daugher feared she stopped taking her conventional medicine. Read more

Lori Hoeksema & her family


Father died of untreated cancer
March 1996

Her father discontinued his chemotherapy to seek an alternative treatment in Tennessee. Just over two months later, he was dead. The operator of the clinic later paid back the money he spent and went to prison. Read more

Joseph Hofbauer

Age: 9
New York

Died (untreated Hodgkin's disease)

His parents skipped conventional therapy for Laetrile and metabolic therapy. A court fight ensued which the parents won, but the boy died of his disease only 2 years later. He had a 95% chance of 5-year survival with conventional treatment. Read more

Photo of Bethany Hughes

Bethany Hughes

Age: 17
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Died (leukemia)
September 5, 2002

Bethany's leukemia required (among other things) blood transfusions for treatment. Her father wanted her to do this, but she and her mother were Jehovah's Witnesses and refused. A divorce and custody case tore the family apart, and Bethany died. Read more

Photo of Lawrence Hughes

Lawrence Hughes

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Family destroyed, daughter died
September 5, 2002

He fought in court to get conventional treatments for his daughter Bethany Hughes, against the wishes of his Jehovah's Witness wife. A long court battle and divorce resulted, and Bethany still died. Read more & more

Pam Hysong & her husband

Husband poisoned
April 12, 2002

Her husband was responding well to Gleevec, a new cancer drug. But his sister insisted on a visit to a "doctor" who claimed he could cure 100% of cancer cases. Her husband had a severe allergic reaction to the treatment on the first day. Read more

Photo of Michaela Jakubczyk-Eckert

Michaela Jakubczyk-Eckert

Age: 40

Died (untreated breast cancer)
December 11, 2005

Michaela decided to seek an alternative treatment for her breast cancer. Her husband disagreed but supported her decision. Her cancer raged out of control. The clinic did not even notify her husband when she died. Read more

Photo of Russell Jenkins

Russell Jenkins

Age: 52
Southsea, Hampshire, England

Died (untreated wound)
April 17, 2007

After stepping on an electric plug, he self-treated the wound on his foot using honey on the advice of his homeopath. A diabetic, his foot became gangrenous. He died, but doctors said if he'd sought help just 2 hours earlier he could have been saved. Read more & more

Oscar Kituyi

Age: 15
Bungoma, Kenya

Genitals mutilated
March 2005

The AIDS epidemic in Africa has spawned many quack cures. Oscar was attacked in the belief that his genitals could be used to make an HIV/AIDS potion. Read more

Lisanne Manseau

Age: 12
Hull, Quebec, Canada

Died (untreated diabetes)
March 28, 1994

After consulting a crystal ball, a pendulum and an angel, a naturopath replaced Lisanne's insulin with a variety of natural remedies to "detoxify" her. She died only three days after beginning treatment. The naturopath was convicted of manslaughter. Read more & more

Bob Marley (musician)

Age: 36
Nine Miles, Jamaica

Died (untreated cancer)
May 11, 1981

In July 1977 he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in his right big toe. His Rastafarian religious beliefs did not allow for amputation. He sought alternative therapies as the cancer spread to the rest of his body. He died in 1981. Read more

Photo of Noah Maxin

Noah Maxin

Age: 11
North Canton, Ohio

Died (cancer)
May 17, 2007

His parents stopped his chemotherapy three months into a 3 1/2 year plan. A court fight ensued over this decision. They won the right to treat him holistically with diet and vitamins. His cancer returned and he eventually died. Read more & more

Photo of Karen McBeth

Karen McBeth

Age: 59
Seattle, Washington

Died, $17,000 wasted on quack device
September 3, 2005

Her carcinoma had progressed into terminal bone cancer. She spent thousands from her savings to buy an EPFX machine, an unproven device. Soon she doubted whether the device was effective. She died, disappointed. Read more & more & more

Steve McQueen (actor)

Age: 50
Juárez, Mexico

Died (lung cancer)
November 7, 1980

Dying of lung cancer, Mr. McQueen sought out treatment with the controversial drug Laetrile in a clinic in Juárez, Mexico. He died there. Read more

Sylvia Millecam (actress)

Age: 45
Boxmeer, Netherlands

Died (untreated cancer)
August 19, 2001

A popular television personality, she sought out alternative therapies for her breast cancer, including a new age psychic healer. Two of her physicians were later barred permanently from medical practice. Read more & more

Marietta Ndziba

Cape Town, South Africa

October 2005

She was given a quack medical cure, including large doses of vitamins, for AIDS. She even endorsed the cure on the salesman's website. She later died of AIDS. Read more & more

Mary Nedlouf

Orlando, Florida

Sold useless treatments for her cancer, died

When her cancer recurred and was declared inoperable, she turned to a homeopathic physician. He prescribed thousands of dollars of treatments and claimed she was being cured, and yet her cancer raged out of control. Read more

Noxolo Ngalo

Du Noon, Cape Town, South Africa

October 30, 2005

She was being treated with vitamin megadoses for AIDS, but died of liver failure. Read more & more & more

Danny Oppenheim Jr. & another patient

Age: 33
Kansas City, Kansas

January 2004

He flew to Michigan to undergo a controversial rapid detox program. He died during the procedure. The doctors were sued and their licenses suspended. Read more

Elizabeth Orchard

Age: 57
Arundel, Queensland, Australia

Untreated tumors, shortened life span
February 2002 - June 2004

Suffering from blurred vision, bleeding from her breasts and memory loss, she was diagnosed as a hypochondriac by her doctor. Instead he put her on HGH (illegal here) as an anti-ageing regimen. A later scan showed she was "riddled" with tumours. Read more

Donald Pereyra

Ridgefield, Connecticut

Died (liver failure)
December 17, 1987

After a tumor on his back was surgically removed, his doctors recommended radiation and chemo. His chiropractor disagreed and injected him with unproven substances. He died of liver failure (he had no liver cancer) and a lawsuit resulted. Read more

Diane Picha

Janesville, Wisconsin

Died (untreated cancer)
April 2000

When her cancer recurred, Diane tried homeopathic treatment. She was sold unapproved substances and a machine. After she died, her daughter sued the practitioner. Read more

Photo of Jack Piper

Jack Piper

Age: 5
North London, England

Bowel perforated in 12 places

Jack was subjected to a needless colonoscopy that perforated his bowel and left him gravely ill. This was alleged to be a treatment for his autism. The hospital publicly apologized and the doctors involved were investigated. Read more

Ryan Pitzer

Age: 2 months


Ryan was given potassium chloride for colic, based on the advice in a book. After the boy died, his parents sued the publisher and the book was taken off the market. Read more

Hollace Schafer

Age: 40
New York City, New York


A PhD in musicology, she had cancer since 1977. Twice she went into remission via chemotherapy. The third time, she sought alternative treatments based on a test of her hair. A jury awarded her husband $282,000 after her death. Read more

Sandra Schmirler (athlete)

Age: 36
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Died (cancer)
March 2, 2000

An Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion in curling, she contracted esophageal cancer. Unfortunately she received treatment from a provider that uses remedies that are not scientifically proven. She died, leaving two children. Read more & more & more

Barry Sheene (motorcyclist)

Age: 52
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Died (untreated cancer)
March 8, 2003

He was a world-famous motorcycle racer and commentator. Diagnosed with cancer, he rejected chemotherapy. He treated himself with "natural therapy" consisting mainly of a low-protein diet, plus "microwave therapy." He died less than a year later. Read more & more & more

Maria Silva

Age: 68
Los Angeles, California

March 29, 2003

Silva had many illnesses, which she attempted to treat using PAP-IMI, an energy medicine machine. She died of a heart attack while attached to the machine. Read more

Roy Smith

Age: 42

Years of useless treatments before he died
July 13, 1998

Roy contracted ALS, and even though his doctor had screened him for mercury and found none, websites convinced him it was the cause. He had all his fillings removed and underwent years of chelation and oxygen therapy. Read more & more

Mark Snider

Beverly Hills, California


Quack AIDS drug (Viroxan) Read more

Sheri Spencer's mother

Boise, Idaho

June 25. 1991

The alternative treatments for her cancer consisted mostly of treatments on an energy machine and she was told she was "completely cured." She died two months later. Read more

Susan Strasberg (actress)

Age: 60
New York, New York

Died (untreated cancer)
January 21, 1999

Diagnosed with breast cancer, she sought out a psychic healer from Russia, who later claimed to have cured her. She died from cancer three years later. Read more

Rick Stray

Age: 32
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Died (cancer)
December 2006

This artist and mother of two had a lumpectomy for breast cancer, but doctors recommended mastectomy. She chose alternative medicine instead. Her cancer spread and she later died. Her story is told in the film "Naked on the Inside". Read more & more

Michael Tylo II

Age: 19
Henderson, Nevada

Died (seizure/drowning)
October 18, 2007

The son of actress Hunter Tylo and actor Michael Tylo, he was counseled that his seizures were caused by familial stress & could be treated with therapy and acupuncture. Later, he suffered a seizure, fell into a pool and drowned. His mother has sued. Read more

Johnny Warren (athlete) & 149 others

Age: 61
Sydney, NSW, Australia

Died (cancer)
November 6, 2004

A long-time smoker, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. His family pleaded with him to give up the unproven "wonder drugs" he was being given in Queensland. He died, and the doctor he was seeing was later investigated by authorities. Read more & more

Lady Victoria Waymouth or "Ms. A"

Age: 57
southern France

September 1, 2004

In a telephone & email consultation (with no physical exam), an alternative care doctor told her to discontinue any other medication and use homeopathic remedies. Within days she died of heart failure. The doctor was suspended for a year. Read more & more & more

Liam Williams-Holloway

Age: 5
Otago, New Zealand

October 2000

His parents refused chemotherapy for his cancer, but health officials obtained a court order. His parents went into hiding and took him to Mexico for alternative treatment. Read more & more

Brendan Woolhead

Age: 34
London, England


A heroin addict, he was treated with a controversial and expensive ultra rapid opiate detox procedure. His doctor had a financial interest in a company that was commercializing the procedure, and he lost his license as a result. Read more & more

Beverly A. Wunder

Age: 47
Topeka, Kansas

April 20, 2006

She was injected with bismuth as an "alternative" treatment for lyme disease. A year later she was dead. Another patient was injured by the same treatment.The doctor surrendered his license and was sentenced to 32 months in prison. Read more & more

Dr. John Yiamouyiannis

Age: 58
Delaware, Ohio

Died (untreated rectal cancer)
October 8, 2000

Quack medical treatment (Laetrile, etc.) Read more

30 London clinic patients

London, England

Hepatitis B infections
July 1997 - February 1998

Up to 30 patients were infected with the potentially deadly Hepatitis B virus at a London alternative medicine clinic. They were given an unproven procedure called autohaemotherapy, which is based on acupuncture. The doctor was sent to jail. Read more

"Patient A"

Huntersville, North Carolina

Died after $27,820 in useless treatments
April-June, 2004

An osteopath claimed he could cure cancer. He ordered a ton of useless tests and then prescribed an expensive therapy without seeing the patient. He was eventually disciplined. Read more

"Baby A."

Age: Newborn
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Brain damage
June 4, 2004

New age midwife & herbal remedies Read more

"Patient B"

Huntersville, North Carolina

Died after $10K of useless treatments
April-June, 2004

An osteopath claimed he could cure cancer. He ordered many tests and then prescribed an expensive therapy without seeing the patient. He was eventually disciplined. Read more

"Patient C"

Huntersville, North Carolina

Died after $32K of useless treatments

An osteopath claimed he could cure cancer with "100%" effectiveness. He ordered many tests and then prescribed an expensive therapy without seeing the patient. He was eventually disciplined. Read more

"Patient D"

Huntersville, North Carolina

Useless expensive procedures

The patient had a history of colon polyps, but the osteopath initiated chelation therapy without even seeing the patient. He was eventually disciplined. Read more

"Jane Doe"

Age: 11
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Confined to wheelchair, neurological problems
September 2006

She had been sick for weeks. Her father distrusted conventional medicine and was feeding her an alternative cure sold through a mutli-level marketing program. She actually had a heart infection. The father was sentenced to six months in jail. Read more & more

"John Doe"

Age: 11 months

Severe anemia

They boy was raised on barley water and goats milk as recommended in an alternative medicine book. He developed a vitamin deficiency and his doctors said he was lucky to avoid brain damage. Read more

"John Doe"

Age: 52
South Australia

Paid $3,500 for alternative therabies, Died

Quack cancer treatment, Alternative medicine Read more

"John Doe"

Age: 66
South Australia

Paid $24,000 for therapy, Died

Seeking a cure for cancer, he paid thousands for a range of blood tests and herbal remedies. Authorities later denounced the practitioner as a quack in a report. Read more

"John Doe"

Age: 55
Honolulu, Hawaii


He was diagnosed with sinus cancer, and found an alternative cure involving hydrazine sulfate on the internet. He bought it over the net and treated himself. He was hospitalized and died with (among other things) severe liver and kidney damage. Read more & more


Bellville, Cape Town, South Africa

June 2, 2005

Diagnosed with HIV in 2002, she was was on a waiting list for antiretrovirals. She started taking an alternative treatment, and in three days she could not even walk. Soon she was dead. Read more


Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa

March 27, 2005

HIV positive, she was being treated for TB when someone offering alternative remedies contacted her. She stopped taking her TB medicines and later died. Read more

"Patient X"

Cape Town, South Africa

October 8, 2005

He was being treated by a quack when his disease got out of control and he was hospitalized. He never had a chance to beat AIDS because of the time he wasted on the treatments. Read more

"Jane Roe"

Age: 13
St. Gédéon de Beauce, Quebec, Canada

Untreated illness
March 13, 2008

She has a rare illness that interferes with her kidneys and breathing. Her mother put her on a regimen of wheat-grass juice and raw foods and was withholding some of her medication. A court intervened and put her in the hospital for surgery. Read more


Age: 9 months
Louisvale, South Africa

November 2001

The AIDS epidemic in Africa has spawned many quack cures. In one area, witch doctors say that sex with a small child can cure the disease. Needless to say, this results in tragedy. Read more & more

"Robyn X."

Age: 42

Lost AUS $70K, suffered needlessly
November 12, 2001

When her aggressive breast cancer did not respond to chemotherapy, she travelled to an 'alternative' clinic in Germany. She suffered horribly while in their care, and died of cancer in the clinic. Read more

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