Survivor goes undercover in Tijuana cancer clinics

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Reporting for Al Jazeera English’s People & Power, Sarah Macdonald tells how her own battle with breast cancer led her to shave her head, hide a camera and go undercover to investigate south-of-the-border clinics touting alternative cancer therapies.

The thriving sub-industry of alternative Tijuana cancer clinics relies primarily on palliative care licenses to operate, a end-of-life-care-focused designation that seems somewhat sinister when it’s hidden behind promises of miracle cures. In looking beyond those promises, MacDonald’s investigation finds an interesting mix of chicanery and genuine good intentions, but ends on a familiar, cautionary note.

I have been fortunate in that I have successfully emerged from my own treatment for breast cancer, so I completely understand the desperation that people will feel when they are told their condition is terminal. It is a death sentence. I understand why many patients or their families will begin to scour the internet in search of a cure and will seize on anything that offers hope. However, as our investigation has shown, at least some of the Tijuana clinics are offering nothing but false hope. There is little or no evidence to support their claims that their strange therapies actually work and there is plenty of evidence that vulnerable people have parted with large sums of money for no reason.

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