Meet Bernie Siegel, M.D. at The Natural Living Expo

With the emergence of his Exceptional Cancer Patients (ECaP) therapy programs in the late 1970s, Bernie Siegel was among the first medical professionals to talk about patient empowerment and our abilities for self-healing and peaceful dying. Officially “retired from surgery but not from counseling people, teaching and lecturing,” Bernie is currently a best-selling author and an enthusiastic artist.

Bernie Siegel will be presenting a Self-Induced Healing workshop at the Natural Living Expo on Sunday, November 17, 2013 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, MA. Weekend expo admission is just $12 and includes access to this workshop plus 90 classes and workshops, 225 exhibits and healthy cooking demonstrations. Expo hours are Saturday, November 16 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, November 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more at

Carol Bedrosian: Your practices and ideas haven’t always jived with the mainstream medical community. Did you find many restrictions or challenges to your way of practicing over the years?

Bernie Siegel: No. Number one, I had a very good reputation as a surgeon. It was more likely people would say, “He’s nuts,” rather than, “He’s trying to get away with something.” But what happened was that people thought my ideas were nuts, but then they realized that the patients were doing better, so it’s good. The nurses are the ones who always supported me, even something as simple as music in the operating room.

C.B.: If you’re seeing this shift in the medical community, why do we still have such a reliance on pharmaceuticals and surgery as our main forms of healthcare?

B.S.: I think the shift is beginning to happen, but it is literally 30 years behind what it ought to be because you have to shift the thinking in order to do the research and document even simple things, such as loneliness affecting genes that control the immune system. Or that laughter helps cancer patients live longer. But you have to get to a point where somebody will say, “We’ll fund that study.” As we begin doing that more, I think we’ll begin to see that what we need to communicate with are the genes, so there will still be a pharmaceutical industry, but it will be a healthier one because it will be mimicking natural product.
The problem is that the pharmaceutical industry, in a sense, supports medicine. If you open a medical journal and look at an ad, it basically says I was depressed. I went to my physician. He prescribed an anti-depressant. Everything’s wonderful now. And I wrote to the pharmaceutical company and the New England Journal of Medicine and I said, this is a disaster. I’m depressed; my family’s been killed in a plane crash. I go to my doctor, he doesn’t ask me what happened, just says, “Here’s the pill.” I said, put another line in at least that says, “Ya’ know, tell me why you’re depressed.” Not just, “Here’s a prescription.” But that’s what psychiatrists are being taught now and the ones who care about people are miserable because they’re told not to talk, see them in a month and give them a new prescription. But when I look through the New England Journal of Medicine, I don’t remember exactly, but it might have been 80% of the pages were pharmaceutical ads. So who’s paying for the journal?

C.B.: What is our potential to use self-healing to cure sickness and disease?

B.S.: The wonderful term that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn uses in his book Cancer Ward [1968 novel] is part of what woke me up. The symbol of a butterfly is transformation and that’s almost an unconscious thing with people because of the caterpillar dissolving away and, boom, we get a butterfly, though he has to struggle to get out and survive. But Solzhenitsyn has a man sitting in the ward and one of them says, “I was looking in the medical library and it says there are cases of self-induced healing.” Then a rainbow-colored butterfly flutters out of the great open book and they all held up their cheeks and foreheads for a healing touch. And I thought…ahhh…self-induced healing.

C.B.: So you think the future of medicine is self-induced healing?

B.S.: Yes, that’s what we’ll be studying because that’s at the genetic level. There’s a very interesting book called The Biology of Belief by a genesis named Bruce Lipton. He said, “Bernie, I agree with you. The gene doesn’t make the decision; it’s the internal environment that triggers the gene. His example is that you want to build a house, so you have to pick a blueprint. The genes are like the blueprint. But what goes on inside? And so the identical twins who don’t get the same experiences every day don’t get the same diseases at the same age all the time.

C.B.: Because the internal environment is different.

B.S.: Right, because one twin might be a sweet, submissive little girl who doesn’t ever express anger and the other one’s a devil having a wonderful life. And if you ask an audience who’s going to get breast cancer, they all vote for the good kid. This is not an accident. Again, if you look at people’s personalities you can predict who will get what disease because it affects their genetics. This is about human potential. This is about participation and not the guilt, blame and shame that parents, teachers and religions bestow on us.
Parenting is the number one public health issue. You say you want to change things, then bring up every kid loved and you don’t have to worry anymore. This is statistically valid. The kids who say my parents love me, by midlife are generally healthier, they haven’t had a major illness. If you put a sign up saying smoking is no good for you, that doesn’t stop everybody. But when you say, “I love you,” and then that person learns how to love themselves, they are more likely to say, “I’m not going to poison myself. I’m going to exercise. I’m not going to weigh 300 lbs just to reward myself for what I never got from anybody else,” because addictions are ways to reward yourself and feel good in an unhealthy, sick way. The drugs, the alcohol, the food, they don’t replace it. And you end up killing yourself.

C.B.: Your medicine is about loving yourself, loving others?

B.S.: If you love yourself — and that doesn’t mean you’re perfect — you don’t have to like yourself or other people but you love them and you love yourself. So when your child feels loved like a divine child, they treat themselves differently. That doesn’t mean you don’t discipline them. I always tell people if you want advice on parenting, get advice on how to raise the puppy and go and raise your kids that way.

Meet Bernie Siegel at the Natural Living Expo, Sunday, November 17 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center, Marlborough, MA. The Natural Living Expo is a convention focused on holistic health, featuring 225 exhibits, 90 workshops and healthy cooking demonstrations with the field’s leading experts. Admission to the event is $12. To learn more visit, or visit them on Facebook and Twitter