Why Francine Scrayen never had a chance of curing Penelope Dingle

Francine Scrayen bills herself as Classical Homeopath. Classical homeopathy is defined as “a form of homeopathy in which the remedy consists of highly diluted animal, drug, plant, or mineral substance that most closely matches the essence of the malady and the totality of symptoms.” The only homeopathic remedy that is mentioned in the coroner’s report is Plumbum, or Lead. Scrayen does not mention which dilution she used, but she does say that “…there is no physical of it there any more,” which would be any dilution beyond 12C, as per Avogadro’s Limit. A little more of what this means later.

Let’s take a little closer look at this “remedy”. The one she most likely used would be Plumbum met. This preparation is recommended for a multitude of conditions, the critical ones here would be constipation and abdominal pain. I could find no recommendation of it for colorectal cancer – for a good reason, most homeopaths do not want to expose themselves to criminal charges.

Scrayen claimed during the inquest that she did not know Penelope had cancer, but this claim is anything but believable. She admitted that she had received Penelope’s MRI report and read it, though claiming that she had not discussed medical terminology “…because I do not know anything about it”. Now I’m not a MD, let alone a radiologist, and I would need to see Penelope’s MRI report to know what exactly it said, but if the words ‘metastatic’ or ‘tumour’ appeared in the report, even a layman can understand those, or look them up in a medical dictionary. So what is Scrayen? Is she completely clueless and read the MRI report only for show or did she understand what it meant and went on to treat Penelope’s cancer with homeopathy anyway? Neither option leaves her looking competent or trustworthy.

Let’s talk a little about homeopathy and its efficacy (ok, I know most of you will know all this already, but some might not). Homeopathic remedies are commonly sold in dilutions from 3C to 200C.  This means a drop of the mother tincture is diluted by 99 drops of water, succussed (banged) on a hard but elastic surface (homeopaths claim succussion will ‘activate’ or ‘potentize’ the substance). The end result would be 1C dilution. Then a drop of this dilution is taken, again diluted with 99 drops of water and succussed again. This process is repeated until the desired dilution is achieved.

When the dilution reaches its 12th stage, Avogadro’s Limit kicks in. At this point there is likely not a single molecule of the original substance left. 12C is not, however, the most used dilution. The inventor of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, formulated the so-called Law of Infinitesimals and believed that the more diluted the preparation was, the more effect it had. He therefore recommended 30C as the most useful remedy in most cases. At 30C the original substance has been diluted by a factor of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, and there are no longer any molecules of the original substance left. It is just water at that stage.

Modern homeopaths try to explain this little problem away by “memory of water” or quantum mechanics – the last of which they clearly do not understand in the slightest. No scientific evidence exists for the memory of water claim, since double-blinded experiments failed to reproduce Benveniste’s original claimed results. Moreover, liquid water does not maintain ordered networks of molecules for longer times than a small fraction of a nanosecond. Talk about bad Use Before dates!

The next question is, naturally, how do homeopaths know which preparation to select for which symptom? Classical homeopathy diagnoses by symptoms alone, as Hahnemann recommended (See Hahnemann’s Organon, § 1-6). Hahnemann formulated what he called The Law of Similars, after a dose of Peruvian bark, a source of quinine, which was used in treating malaria gave him malaria-like symptoms (it is known that an allergy to quinine will produce the results Hahnemann experienced and a non-allergic person will not get the same reaction). Hahnemann went on experimenting with various substances to see what kind of symptoms they would produce in a healthy individual and to assign the remedy for a condition that most closely resembled the symptoms.

Homeopaths still use this kind of testing, called “proving” and it does not resemble a clinical trial at all. The new substance to be tested is sent to a manufacturer of homeopathic preparations where it is duly diluted and succussed. The batch is sent back to the master provers with a single vial of pure water (ok, all of them are pure water, I know) as the control. This is inadequate as the placebo arm, to say the least. The next stage is to distribute the vials of the preparation to the provers, who then for several days or weeks keep a diary of any symptoms and dreams they may experience. Yes, I said dreams. Dreams are apparently major evidence for what the homeopathic remedies can do. Once the proving period is ended, the master provers collect the diaries and prepare a list of symptoms the provers have recorded. The preparation is then judged to be good for those symptoms. The New York School of homeopathy recently proved Musca domestica, the house fly. The proving summary is quite eye-opening, a less scientific and convincing testing is very difficult to imagine.

When all of the above is taken into consideration, it becomes clear why Francine Scrayen had no chance of ever curing Penelope Dingle of her cancer. She was using  a preparation which had no original substance left, and it was one which even the homeopaths did not recommend for what Scrayen, judging from the available evidence, knew was cancer. Moreover, the remedy was based on unsubstantiated speculation and assigned to a condition by pure guesswork and imagination. Penelope Dingle was doomed the moment she decided to trust something as useless as homeopathy.

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Who was Penelope Dingle and why what happened to her matters

Penelope Dingle was an Australian woman. She was 45 years old when she died of colorectal cancer on 25th August 2005. Without wishing to sound callous, people do die of cancer. What makes her case remarkable is that she was not given any chance to survive.

At the time of her death, Penelope Dingle was being treated by homeopath Francine Scrayen. Scrayen forbade Penelope to take even painkillers for her extremely painful condition and was treating her with homeopathy alone. You can read Penelope’s own words for what she went through. Penelope at last, after all that intense suffering sought medical help, but by then it was far too late. The coroner’s report makes this clear:

Professor Platell described the pain associated with such an obstruction as extremely severe and arising from a combination of pain from the tumour causing blockage of the bowel, but also the tumour invading adjacent organs. He stated that the tumour was invading the cervix, the uterus, the left ovary and retroperitinal structures causing severe pain and in addition there was an “incredibly distended large bowel, almost to the point of splitting” which would cause even more severe pain.

Professor Platell explained that during the following procedure it was necessary for him to remove the cervix and uterus as well as the ovaries and the bowel from the pelvis as well as the fallopian tubes. The large intestine above the blockage was completely full with between 1½ and 2 kgs of faeces which had to be washed out prior to rejoining the large intestine.

Professor Platell was extremely disappointed as after the initial investigations and assessments it seemed that the deceased had a potentially curable rectal cancer which had been contained within the rectum and was then not invading adjacent structures. He believed that if the deceased had followed the initial treatment course she would have had a good chance of curing her disease.

It was not possible to remove all the cancer during the surgery and so the procedure was essentially a palliative operation, in that there was still residual tumour left in the pelvis.

So it is clear that Penelope’s reliance on homeopathy is directly responsible for her cancer to have gone from potentially curable to no longer easily treatable. What was Francine Scrayen’s part in this? This is what the coroner’s report has to say about her conduct:

Although Mrs Scrayen stated that she had completed a first aid course with St John Ambulance Service, she stated that it was a “very basic” course and that her understanding of medical issues was relatively poor.

Mrs Scrayen’s records reveal very regular contact with the deceased over 2001 and 2002 and then in 2003 extremely regular contacts. During 2003, for example, Mrs Scrayen’s notes, which the evidence indicated were not entirely comprehensive, reveal a total of 109 different days on which she had contact with the deceased up until mid October. In the months of July, August, September and October she had contact with the deceased almost every day.

In my view the number and extent of these contacts was grossly excessive for any legitimate professional interaction and provided evidence of an increasing unhealthy dependence of the deceased on Mrs Scrayen and her homeopathic remedies and treatments.

In evidence Mrs Scrayen stated that she was not purporting to treat the cancer to the exclusion of medical treatment and that there was no reason why medical treatment and homeopathic treatment could not be administered at the same time, except where the medical treatment might cause the homeopathic picture to become “blurred or antidoted”. This claim was entirely inconsistent with the account of the deceased as recorded extensively in her diaries and contained in her unsent letter [the one linked to above] addressed to Mrs Scrayen dated 29 November 2004.

Mrs Scrayen claimed that she did not purport to treat the deceased’s cancer and said that she had no knowledge that the deceased had a belief that she was advising that homeopathy could provide a cure for cancer.
I do not accept this claim by Mrs Scrayen, whom I did not generally regard to be a witness of truth.

It is clear from the evidence of many witnesses at the inquest some of which is detailed in these reasons that the deceased did believe that she was being treated by homeopathy for her cancer and repeatedly said so. In my view Mrs Scrayen could not have been in any doubt as to that issue, particularly in the context of their multiple interactions in relation to her treatment. In addition the fact that the deceased was telling people at the time that she was relying on homeopathy to cure her was recorded in notes written at the time such as the Silver Chain Nurse entries referred to earlier.

So there you have it. Scrayen was doing her level best to deny that she had been treating Penelope’s cancer, but her denial is not believable.

And what was the verdict?

Apart from receiving limited and inadequate pain relief the deceased did not receive any medical treatment from a mainstream medical practitioner over the latter part of this period and relied on the treatments provided by Mrs Scrayen. Mrs Scrayen’s influence on the deceased played a major part in her decision making which contributed to the loss. Dr Dingle, her partner, insofar as he supported and assisted with Mrs Scrayen’s treatments and kept the deceased away from outside influences, contributed to that loss of a chance of survival. Ultimately, however, the decisions were those of the deceased, sadly those decisions were to a large extent based on misinformation.

During the period in 2003 while the deceased was relying on the treatment provided by Mrs Scrayen, not only did she lose whatever chances of life she had, she suffered extreme and unnecessary pain. Evidence at the inquest was to the effect that had surgery been performed earlier much of that gross pain would have been avoided.

This situation was made even worse by the fact that Mrs Scrayen’s advice to the deceased was that she should avoid or take a minimum of pain reducing medications. The deceased accepted this advice and only reluctantly used minimal analgesia.

I find that the death arose by way of natural causes but in the circumstances described above.

This is why what happened to Penelope Dingle matters: she relied on people who had either no or very limited medical training, no diagnostic ability or training and an unfounded belief in the treatments they used on her. As the coroner said, she was misinformed by the very people she trusted and on whose advice she relied on.

There are lots of people like these around: they write books, they have slick websites where they sell their treatments, they appear on podcasts and DVDs or YouTube clips. Don’t rely on their advice alone, ever. If someone claims they can cure cancer, AIDS or any other life-threatening condition with a secret or “alternative” treatment, don’t believe their claims. Always ask for a qualified medical opinion. There is no conspiracy out there to suppress cancer cures, that is just marketing hype by the snake oil salesmen. And every life lost to their worthless treatments is a life too many.

Aftermath

Penelope’s sister is now suing Francine Scrayen.

Scrayen, on her part, is also involved with law, though in her case she’s using lawyers to silence a blogger. The sheer gall of that woman is unbelievable! Her part in the death of Penelope Dingle is undeniable – though she certainly tries to deny it – and now she’s concerned about her reputation. What reputation can she have left after the coroner’s report is beyond me.

Here’s my personal challenge to you, Ms Scrayen. Please show where anything I’ve written in my blogpost about the case of Penelope Dingle is in any way incorrect and does not reflect the real events. Please have your lawyer to check it over to see if you have a case.