Doctor of Boy Who Fled Chemo Says Hausers Are 'Good People'

The doctor who first treated Daniel Hauser is offering alternative medicine.

May 25, 2009, 6:29 PM

May 26, 2009— -- The Minnesota doctor who first treated 13-year-old Daniel Hauser said he has incorporated natural remedies in his practice for years, and was pained at watching the international chase for Daniel and his mother Colleen Hauser after they fled from court-ordered chemotherapy.

"They are good people. I just think they've been misled by some in the alternative medical community," said Dr. Bruce Bostrom, pediatric oncologist at the Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Bostrom has treated cancer in children for 20 years and in that time has adopted what he likes to call "integrative medicine" to manage the side effects of chemotherapy -- everything from herbs to acupuncture and something called therapeutic touch that uses energy fields to calm patients.

"With the case of Danny Hauser, to me that's fairly unique," said Bostrom. "Although I've had patients concerned about getting chemo, this is the first time I've ever had to report someone."

The Hauser family quit chemotherapy for Daniel after just one round, citing religious beliefs particular to the "do no harm" philosophy of the Nemenhah Band, a Missouri-based religious group that believes in natural healing methods advocated by some American Indians.

Colleen Hauser testified she found the Nemenhah Band on the Internet.

Bostrom said it's not uncommon for his patients' families to ask about alternative therapies they found online.

"There's a lot of misinformation, they go on the Internet, they find out things and when we meet them we have to explain," said Bostrom. "I think that everything used requires that it be evidence-based."

For some reason, Bostrom said Daniel and Colleen Hauser didn't listen to explanations that natural and complementary treatments would only help side effects, not cure cancer. Bostrom could only guess it had to do with Colleen's sister, who died while on chemotherapy.

"We think that a lot of these herbs could work with chemotherapy to make them stronger together," said Bostrom. "But there's no evidence that any of these herbal remedies are curative of cancer by themselves, using them as an alternative."

The entire time Hauser was missing, Bostrom said he hoped and prayed someone found the teen.

Chances Someone Can Survive Hodgkin's

"I think he still can be cured and live a long life as a dairy farmer in southern Minnesota -- or whatever he wants to be," said Bostrom.

Daniel testified in court that he believed the chemo would kill him and told the judge in private testimony unsealed later that if anyone tried to force him to take it, "I'd fight it. I'd punch them and I'd kick them."

Modern drugs skyrocketed cure rates for childhood leukemia from 5 percent in the 1960s to 85 percent today. But Bostrom and other doctors are well aware that the lifesaving medicine comes with a heavy burden of side effects for the children to bear.

Jonathan Gould, 11, finished his final treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma this fall. He said he was sad and scared when he heard the news, but "I was thinking more about going bald."

"The doctor said I don't have cancer -- I had Hodgkin's, which is less scary," said Gould, who received treatment at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

He did go bald and while he was on chemotherapy -- which can last for the majority of the day for three days straight in the beginning -- he said he just wanted to sleep every day.

According to Gould, compared to any other illness he's ever had, chemotherapy is "a lot worse."

But less than a year later, Gould's parents Tricia Petrisko and Robert Gould, say he is cancer-free and back to his normal self.

"I don't care talking about it," said Gould, but "I feel brave."

In 1994, the severe side effects from Hodgkin's chemotherapy treatments prompted Billy Best of East Bridgeport, Mass., to flee rather than finish his treatment.

"I ran away because I believe the chemo was poisoning me and it would kill me before it cured me," Best, now 31, told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Best returned and started his own alternative therapies, including roots, Indian rhubarb, slippery elm and an immune boosting concoction called "714-X," which Best credits for saving his life.

But Bostrom remains unconvinced.

When Western Medicine Meets Alternative Therapies

"It sounds to me like he received some chemotherapy and he could have been cured with just that chemotherapy," said Bostrom, who added that doctors now have a better idea of when a cancer is cured than in 1994.

"I think his lifestyle is great, but I don't necessarily believe that's what's cured him of his Hodgkin's," said Bostrom.

Despite the controversies of people who choose natural therapies as alternatives to cancer treatment, Bostrom said he thinks it's better for doctors to discuss treatments outside the medical establishment than to dismiss them.

"In the past, a lot of physicians would say, 'don't take that crap, it's no good,'" said Bostrom, while pointing out many people still use alternative medicine.

But the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine estimates that in 2007, nearly 40 percent of adults and 10 percent of children used complementary medicine.

"Whether we as physicians ignore it, we know it's important to understand it and discuss it with them," said Bostrom.

Bostrom asks each of his patients what alternative and complementary medicine they use, and how much it costs. He says he is able to weed out supplements, like vitamin C, which can interfere with chemotherapy drugs, and sometimes save his patients hundreds of dollars a month.

"Sometimes they are spending a lot of money and it's something you can find in fruits and vegetables," said Bostrom, adding that he's a big proponent of research into natural remedies for future cures.

"A good example is the chemotherapy I gave Daniel Hauser," said Bostrom. "It's a combination of seven different drugs, and five of those drugs are derived from natural products."

ABC News' Emily Friedman contributed to this report.