OPINION

Playing with public hopes and health

It is not right to play with the hopes and fears of people, especially sick people. When we, or one of our loved ones, has a serious illness, and are forced to endure regular stays in hospital and uncomfortable therapies, we are prone to accept any treatment that is offered – particularly if this is purported to work miracles on those who take it. The sense of human frailty and the fear of death can easily make one gullible. And this is perfectly understandable. What can you say to someone who wants to believe that a particular potion holds the key to their health? The real problems begin when certain profit-seeking individuals start trying to commercially exploit this gullibility and human frailty and, with the help of the media, build their fortune on the basis of human hopes and fears. These opportunists are clever enough to promote themselves with the help of certain television channels who are only too willing to broadcast such sensationalist claims to bump up their ratings. In the 1970s, a different scam had dominated the media: allegations regarding the healing properties of water from a region near Athens called Kamatero. Regular reports in daily newspapers resulted in busloads of hopeful citizens converging upon Kamatero to seek a cure for their ailments. A similar case was that of the frenzy over the alleged healing properties of the venom of Cuba’s «blue scorpion,» which drew thousands of cancer sufferers to Fidel Castro’s island, including many Greeks. Now we are being bombarded with reports about olive leaf pulp as a treatment for cancer sufferers. The «news» was first aired on state channel Net and then broadcast on the private channels. The reports have provoked a mad rush for the olive tree leaves by cancer sufferers and their family members, who pay up to -60 per kilo. The only thing that differentiates the olive leaf frenzy from other such crazes is that the government reacted to it immediately and firmly, calling on citizens to avoid the brew. In an unprecedented move, authorities stressed that the consumption of mashed olive leaves was not a tested remedy for any illness and that it could actually cause problems as it is unclear whether these leaves contain toxic properties. The crazy thing is that there is no legislation to protect the public from such medical quackery, as authorities conceded earlier this week. So Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos has called for a legislative framework to be drafted that would fill this void and protect citizens from various charlatans who, with the help of unscrupulous media organizations, play with people’s hopes and health.