SCMP: Worshippers ignore health warnings (22 July, 96)

Reports: JOHN FLINT SHARON CHEUNG and WENDY LIM WAN-YEE

More than a 1,000 cult followers gathered last night to defend their use of hydrogen peroxide as a medical cure despite doctors’ warnings.

Church of Zion worshippers met at Mongkok Stadium following controversy caused by ‘miracle cure’ claims which came to light after some members complained of feeling ill.

Doctors say the church’s claims pose a major risk to health and could even cause death.

Prince of Wales Hospital senior medical officer Dr Man Chi-yin said hydrogen peroxide was most commonly used as a disinfectant. He scoffed claims that it could help in the treatment of cancers, AIDS and skin diseases.

He said: ‘It is only applied medically as a disinfectant on external wounds. It is harmful to the body when ingested.’ Dr Man said even dilute hydrogen peroxide was likely to cause mouth ulcers and other ‘local tissue injuries’ if swallowed. Other problems include vomiting and abdominal bleeding.

More worryingly it can also lead to gas formation, with the hydrogen peroxide reacting with local tissue and releasing oxygen. Oxygen bubbles obstruct the blood flow to vital organs resulting in confusion, seizures, acute respiratory failure and heart attacks. More concentrated hydrogen peroxide could result in stomach perforation.

At last night’s meeting, followers raised their hands to indicate their faith in the chemical’s healing powers.

Instructional tapes and videos were handed out to members free of charge. The drug itself is sold at $30 per container.

Hannah, in her 20s, boasted she gave hydrogen peroxide to her three-month-old baby despite the warnings.

‘I take the hydrogen peroxide myself, it is good as an antiseptic. I also give it to my children. The three-month-old takes one drop and the two-year-old takes three drops.

‘Hannah started out taking one drop-a-day but eventually increased the daily dose to 25. She claimed she had guessed how much to give her children from her own tolerance.

She was now taking the hydrogen peroxide in a powdered form as instructed by the church.

‘They introduced it [the hydrogen peroxide powder] last week, it is on the tape.

‘You have to listen to the tape from the beginning. You cannot stop or start in the middle. If you have any questions you should talk to the division leader.

‘I belong to the eighth division. I joined the church two years ago.

‘To consolidate your faith you have to listen to the tape all the time. Since I joined the church all my bad habits have gone, I am never in a bad temper and I am happy.’ A Church of Zion official, leaving through the back exit of the stadium, declined to comment after the meeting.

Chairman of the Hong Kong Christian Council, Simon Sit Poon-ki, said: ‘I have never heard of anything like this here before.

‘We wouldn’t even think of advising worshippers to take ginseng tea, even though it’s a good thing. People should not take any drugs unless under the advice of their doctor.

‘Mainline churches advise according to the teachings of the Bible. Taking such drugs doesn’t have anything to do with religious worship.’

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