Samuel Girod’s federal trial began this week. The Kentucky Amish farmer made and sold several homemade products, some of which suggested bold curative properties, in a business running for over 20 years.

These include a “black salve” called “To-Mor-Gone” (with a sales pamphlet claiming it to be “very good at removing tumors”), and a “Chickweed Salve” which had the words “Cures Cancer” on the container.

This WKYT article summarizes Girod’s case:

Girod’s troubles started back in 2013 when someone reported his products to the state health department in Missouri. A federal judge in Missouri ruled that FDA officials must complete inspections of the property where Girod made his products which is where Kentucky comes into play.

Girod makes his products on the family farm along Satterfield Lane in Bath County. The farm is home to Girod and his wife, along with their 12 children and 25 grandchildren.

The FDA requires anyone who manufactures a defined drug to register their facility with them. The Girod farm is not registered. According to the indictment, the FDA says their officers were prevented from conducting an inspection at the farm.

The 12 federal charges Girod faces “include conspiracy, distributing misbranded drugs, and threatening a witness.”

Here’s a news report on Girod’s case, from late January:

Charges too harsh?

Are the charges against Girod too severe?

That’s what supporters are suggesting. And Girod seems to have a lot of support, both off- and online (in the above video, a non-Amish woman says they are “targeting the Amish”). You can find his story linked and covered on many health and political websites across the internet.

Girod faces some serious charges. Various sources suggest he could face 48 or more years in prison. I don’t know what the “threatening a witness” charge stems from, but in any case seems to be secondary to the main issue.

These products by their labeling suggested they could cure cancer. Even though someone may have formed that conviction based on a personal experience, that sort of claim is rather bold.

In Amish communities, word of mouth is powerful, and particularly when it comes to health matters. Decisions on health care are influenced by a number of factors. But generally speaking, unconventional approaches to medical matters are common. This is driven in part by internal recommendations, which can be especially powerful in the close-knit, family-centered Amish society.

I respect those who use natural remedies. And I’m not a fan of bureaucratic overreach. But I also fear that products making unverified promises could give false hope, or even preclude someone opting for a more effective and scientifically confirmed treatment option.

Leaving aside the conspiracy and witness threat charges (it’s unclear what this consists of), claiming your product can cure cancer with little or no scientific backing seems a tad irresponsible, no matter how strongly you believe it might. But I don’t know that it should garner decades in prison (or anything near that).

What do you think?

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