Successful surgeon who, embittered by the attitude of most of his colleagues towards the terminally ill, started his own program with his wife that was centered on improving physical health through keeping a positive attitude.

In the mid 1970s, Siegel had seen enough trauma and tragedy in his job that he was starting to experience the symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Finding little in the way of emotional support from within the medical establishment, Siegel attended a seminar on dealing with cancer through psychological methods.

Siegel was impressed with the range of holistic methodology used outside of a hospital to treat cancer, and felt it jibed with his own experiences with patients; more often than not, the ones who survived terminal cancer were either those who didn't respect the disease, or those who refused to give control of their lives and treatment over to their doctors. On the other hand, patients who resigned themselves to their treatment and lay down to die, usually did just that.

In 1978, Siegel and his wife started Exceptional Cancer Patients, a workgroup for the terminally ill that focused on using visualization to come to terms with conventional cancer treatments while encouraging them to get involved with their treatments. By 1986, he had accumulated enough success stories and supporting evidence for his theories to write his first, most popular book, Love, Medicine, and Miracles, which was directed both at doctors and patients.

The main points of Love, Medicine, and Miracles are as follows:

  • A patient's negative attitude towards treatments is usually its own and only reward. Resignation to one's situation and fear of treatments are usually shortcuts to death.
  • A doctor can hurt a patient through a poor bedside manner; Giving a patient 3 months to live, then rushing off to the next appointment is a good way to break a person's spirit.
  • Listening to the body's wants when one is sick is a very good way to live a fulfilling life, even if it really does only last 3 more months.
  • Visualization and imagery of one's emotions can allow a patient to come to terms with their disease, or what needs to be done to treat it.
  • The body's immune system is directly tied to human consciousness.

Siegel used about 50% anecdotal stories from his own experiences, 30% citations of medical studies, and 20% his own theories to back up the points above. Love, Medicine, and Miracles was not initially popular with doctors, but it was popular enough with patients and the general holistic medicine crowd to encourage Siegel to write a few more books that generally reiterated the same ideas with different or updated evidence.

Gradually, Bernie Siegel's theories have accumulated enough respect in the medical field that he is no longer invited on daytime talk shows as the "controversial doctor", but is now invited to some hospitals to discuss his ideas with his colleagues. Although not all his theories have borne out--a study co-authored by Siegel found that 34 breast cancer patients in his program did not live significantly longer than the control group--the amount of dignity gained by terminally ill patients that use his methods cannot be denied.

Most doctors still will not recommend a Siegel book to patients, but many nurses will. Judge accordingly.

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