Rediger wants Western doctors to embrace the ‘medicine of hope’.
He isn’t trying to dissuade us from seeking medical intervention. He accepts that, more often than not, there is no simple, non-medical equation; that ‘eat right’ plus ‘fall in love’ does not usually add up to a cure for cancer, or any of the other conditions that his spontaneous remission patients overcame.
But how reassuring it is, especially in these horribly uncertain times, to know that sometimes it does.
Rediger’s argument is that if you can discover what these people have in common and how they acted after diagnosis, then you may well have the key not just to recovery from terminal conditions, but to good health in general. Or, as he says of himself, having followed what he thinks are the precepts for spontaneous remission, “it’s nearly impossible for me to get ill any longer, no matter the degree of exposure”. This may have made him very useful in the Boston area during the recent pandemic, but the book, of course, was written before the world went into lockdown.
There is a lot of work being done with that little “may”. From a scientific standpoint, there is a severe issue of selection bias in the narratives the book offers. Rediger does not, after all, tell any stories about people who became ill and then changed their diet, avoided stress, embraced love, and faced up to their inevitable extinction – and still died anyway. You would think there would be no shortage of such discouraging tales. Without a sense of whether they, as you might suspect, vastly outweigh the cases of amazing recovery, it is hard to draw firm conclusions.