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UPDATE: When Inkatha Freedom Party MP Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini died in August 2014, first reports were that the terminal lung cancer he had been battling had finally killed him. It later turned out that he had committed suicide by shooting himself to death. Oriani-Ambrosini ruffled medical feathers by refusing orthodox medical treatment in favour of alternative medicine, including medical marijuana instead of morphine for pain. One major motivation, he told me in a Biznews interview in February 2014, was his devotion to young son, Luke: ‘I want to see him grow up,’ he said. He campaigned vigorously for decriminalisation of medical marijuana, tabling the Medical Innovations Bill before Parliament. It was his way, he said, of speaking up for people facing dread disease who have no voice in SA and internationally, and for their right to information and choice – including freedom to choose how best to treat themselves. Here, I republish my interview telling the story of his fight to survive, in his own words.
By Marika Sboros
How ironic that it has taken a Harvard-trained Italian-American constitutional lawyer and politician to face death before forcing alternative therapies for cancer onto the legislative stage in South Africa.
(In February 2014) Inkatha Freedom Party MP Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini tabled his Medical Innovation Bill on decriminalising medical use of marijuana, and making alternative cancer treatments available to patients with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
In an impassioned plea during the second state-of-the-nation debate, Oriani-Ambrosini said not to do so was “irrational”, and “a crime against humanity”, given the global pandemic of cancer, and unnecessary pain, suffering and deaths facing millions denied alternative options.
Oriani-Ambrosini, a doctor of law, says the Bill is based on solid scientific evidence and is “a fight I didn’t look for. It looked for me”.
In May 2013, he revealed that he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and doctors did not expect him to live beyond Christmas. (In February 2014) he told Parliament: “I’m here today because I had the courage of taking illegal treatments in Italy in the form of bicarbonate of soda, and here in South Africa in the form of cannabis, marijuana or dagga.”
Backed into a corner
Orthodox medicine had backed him into a corner by giving him no option “other than dying”, he says. Doctors told him his cancer was inoperable and incurable, and suggested chemotherapy.
“The only problem was research showed chemotherapy doesn’t work with my type of cancer,” he says.
Extensive research over 20 years in Australia, New Zealand, North America and Europe, showed that patients who took chemotherapy lived a shorter time than those who did not, Oriani-Ambrosini says. Research also shows, he says, that 75% of doctors who have cancer refuse chemotherapy “because they know in most cases it doesn’t work to prolong life”.
Armed with that sobering information, Oriani-Ambrosini says he had no choice but “to find my own options”.
That road has been both a “nightmare and a marvelous adventure”. Along the way, he travelled back home to his native Italy to have treatment using bicarbonate of soda, that has proved effective in some cases, and “made sense”.
“It appealed to my intellect,” he says, and results have been gratifyingly positive: the tumour stopped growing, which was “ nothing short of miraculous”.
The treatment, based on the fungal theory of cancer, is certainly controversial: cancerous neoplasms (tumours or abnormal masses of tissue that result when cells divide more than they should or don’t die when they should) are known to be covered with fungus. The conventional view is that this is opportunistic infection as a result of cancer. Italian Dr Tullio Simoncini turned that thinking upside down by suggesting the cancer was opportunistic, and treating the fungal infection with bicarbonate of soda – classified as innocuous pharmacologically – could help. In return, he was struck off the role, and vilified by the medical and scientific community.
Simoncini continues to treats cancer patients using the therapy worldwide, and is one of many “heroes around the world who face imprisonment for doing that they think is right”, says Oriani-Ambrosini .
Oriani-Ambrosini started using cannabis for pain control a few months ago rectally (that has “no effect on my brain”, he says), and because research suggests it has curative benefits. He has gone public because “hundreds of people are doing the same thing underground”. An oncologist also told Oriani-Ambrosini recently he has been “telling people to do the same thing for years”.
“It’s time to bring these therapies above ground,” Oriani-Ambrosini says, and to “turn the (orthodox) page” by understanding the link between lifestyle and cancer, including diet, particularly sugar and carbohydrates. That requires “education, changing mindset about lifestyle and diet, and regaining control of our bodies and treatment options”.
Orthodox medicine clearly does not have all the answers on treatment for cancer and other life-threatening diseases, he says, “and if they don’t have all the answers, why should they stop other people from trying to formulate answers”.
In a modified version of a Mark Twain quote, he says: “I own my own body, so surely I should be allowed to choose how I treat it.”
*Follow me on Twitter @MarikaSboros
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