A new therapy that claims to cure cancer and other diseases but has been blamed for dozens of deaths in Europe is gaining popularity in Canada, according to a Radio-Canada investigation.
"Total biology" is a therapeutic approach that claims illness is caused by psychological conflicts in the brain.
The approach, also known as new medicine or bio-psycho-genealogy, professes to heal all disease, including AIDS and advanced forms of cancer.
The method is gaining traction in Quebec where patients are often told to ignore their cancer, or stop medical treatment altogether, according to an investigation by CBC's French-language service.
Some European practitioners have been convicted for illegally practising medicine and another is being sued - but in Quebec, total biology's proponents are active in more than 30 Quebec cities.
The founder of total biology, Dr. Claude Sabbah, claims that up to 90 per cent of all illnesses are caused by messages from the medical community.
He teaches his approach in six-day seminars offered in France and Canada. He tells students that cancer and other diseases are formed in the brain first, and must be deprogrammed.
During the investigation, Radio-Canada journalists went undercover with hidden cameras seeking medical advice about fictitious diseases.
One of the journalists claimed to have breast cancer. She visited several total biology practitioners who told her that her life was not in danger, and the lump in her breast was the result of a maternal conflict.
She was recommended to stop chemotherapy altogether. During another visit a practitioner told her to drink champagne and relax. Pray 15 times a day
Another undercover journalist who claimed he had prostate cancer was told his ailment was caused by a conflict between his parents at the time of his conception.
He was given orders to recite a prayer 15 times a day.
That kind of advice can be dangerous, said Dr. Yves Lamontagne, president of the Quebec College of Physicians.
"A lot of people are [following] that type of psychotherapy, and unfortunately, some people who are most of the time very sick don't know what to do exactly, and think this would be a kind of miracle for their disease," he told CBC.
Total biology violates Quebec's medical code of ethics, and people interested in alternative medicine or therapies should consult their doctors first, Lamontagne said.
The approach "can seem crazy," but it works, claims Olivier Comoy, a Quebec naturopath and total biology practitioner.
Comoy says he's seen cases where people have completely recovered from their illnesses after undergoing total biology therapy, which helps them understand how life events and emotions leave marks on their bodies and behaviours.
Sabbah is no longer allowed to practice medicine in France, but he's trained more than 7,000 people, most of them with no formal medical experience.
Many practise the approach in Quebec.