Gawler MJA a personal perspective on programs and what were the dates of those famous chest wall photographs?

Gawler evidence and errors highlight the fact that more investigation is needed….

Since 31 December 2011 the Australian public has seen an unprecendented series of quality news articles questioning Ian Gawler’s cancer remission in 1978. Professionals and patients are now asking why it has taken so long to fact-check the most famous cancer recovery story in Australia and perhaps – the world. With new evidence, researchers have now gone beyond anecdotal storyline to a view of the science of what actually occurred in Ian’s case.  A recent MJA article has some sensible dialogue around these important cancer survival issues – although the author psychiatrist Tanya Hall steers clear of the misdiagnosis issue, she discusses an important perspective regarding psychological impact that the Gawler program can have on cancer patients. “Healed or Hungry – a personal perspective on the Gawler program” was published in the MJA last Monday 21 May 2012.

It is a pity that this article is not available to be read outside of MJA subscribers. Tanya Hall tells us that she attended the 12 week support group and a 3 day Ian Gawler meditation program & she read You Can Conquer Cancer.  She eloquently discusses the issues with guilt, the vegan diet, (which Ian never followed) and a litany of issues that the program brought up for her as a doctor and patient. A few of Tanya Hall’s perceptive comments are outlined below :

1. “…. My concern is that in my opinion the Gawler program goes too far, making far reaching suggestions that do not appear supported by evidence….”

2.  “….Of most concern to me was hearing our program leader state that there was no evidence that chemotherapy was effective. This was nothing less than astonishing, patently untrue, and highly disrespectful to those of us undergoing chemotherapy….”

3.  She says of the programs “… In fact while criticism of conventional medicine is noticeable, there is an almost complete lack of critical analysis among participants of Gawler’s methods — which are supported in a quasi-religious fashion. There seemed to be a worrying tendency to unquestioningly quote Gawler as though his words were above scrutiny, and certainly carrying more weight than the views of any number of esteemed oncologists.

3. “….Reading some of the testimonials, it struck me that those participants whose outcomes were poor still wrote positively about the program. It puzzled me as to why this was so; if anything, Gawler’s program seems to me to invite what may be irrational hope and promise far exceeding what most oncologists would offer…”

From its inception in the early 80’s until 1996 when I resigned from the organisation, the Gawler approach mirrored what we had done to help Ian recover. As a co founder, it was sad to see the emphasis and the story change – accelerating after I left. Just to complicate the issue,  new theories suggest there is a high probablity that Ian had TB in December 1975 and not secondary bone cancer. At 21 years of age I was the sole carer/nurse for Ian. He was very ill that is true – but with current knowledge there was certainly not enough tumour load at the time of his major demise Feb-March 1976, to produce the symptoms that he had…..symptoms that were not congruent with osteosarcoma but were very congruent with a diagnosis of TB. (He was treated medically for TB July 1978 for one year).   There was no biopsy to prove secondary cancer so with new information and this – can you believe it – first investigation of this famous remission, we cannot say with any certainty, that it was cancer that almost killed him.

It is I believe no one’s fault – misdiagnoses happen frequently – even in medicine today, but I am left with Carl Sagan’s quote ringing in my own ears – “Exceptional claims require exceptional evidence”. While evidence has been building supporting a paper published in the IMJ (Internal Medicine Journal 2011/12) there have, I am pleased to say, been notable positive changes with doctors and patients questioning Ian’s recovery in an unprecedented manner.

There have been however, some quite bizzare claims and “faceless” cowardly personal email attacks on me since the science of Ian Gawler’s remission has been questioned; this includes a recent Facebook comment by a pro-Ian Gawler supporter,  unfortunately a patient with stage IV breast cancer whose comments were so damaging as to cause legal intervention. Unbelieveable!! The last thing anyone wants! It seems emotions are running high in the face of facts and science.

Now to patient’s questions this week….

There is one question that I am repeatedly asked…What about the disputed date of Ian Gawler chest wall photographs? Why are these dates so important? To answer this I will refer  to:

  1. Ian Gawler’s Comments in the Internal Medicine Journal – published February 7 2012.  He says….. “It may be helpful to explain that one particular photograph of my chest wall, taken at the time of commencing chemotherapy in October 1976 and widely reproduced in the medical and popular press, when re-photographed for a TV program many years ago, was mislabelled as coming from October 1977. (MY ADDITION: **Also a mistake here as the photos were labelled & July 1977**) My ex-wife, Grace Gawler, used this mislabelled photo to question my case in the MJA in 2010. This error was refuted by Professor G Jelinek and Dr R Gawler in a letter published in the MJA along with that of my ex-wife.”  *Below see this “mislabelled” photo in the first MJA by Meares October 1978…Chronologically – this Abstract was the first publicity about the case – so in no way can the above statement re the photos being mislabelled for a TV program, be true.

Meares 1978 Abstract clearly shows disputed photograph date - True Date 7July 1977

I include a snip (see left) from the Meares Abstract MJA October 1978 that clearly shows the photographs and the date they were taken.

I note that neither the photographs nor dates of Ian Gawler’s chest wall are  included in the Meares abstract published on the Gawler Foundation’s gawlerfoundationmedia.

To make matters worse – The photos are reproduced without attached original dates in the December 2008 MJA “True Stories” authored by Professor G Jelinek and Dr R Gawler; also posted on gawlerfoundationmedia.

However – it gets even more confusing when it is stated in that same MJA  article that Ian only consulted Meares after all his other therapies including chemo failed which would of necessity place the date the photos were taken to be December 1976!!

However in the MJA 2008 Gawler-Jelinek  we also see another version of the dates – figure B in the article,  states that the chest wall photos were taken when Meares first saw the patient. December 1975!
A Dragons Blessing, Ian Gawler’s biography has yet another version –  the chest wall photos are reproduced but shows no date – just a blank white tape where the original dates 7 July 1977 had been….the sidebar says they were taken late 1976!

So when were these famous photographs taken? Make up your own mind….

an Gawler Chest wall photographs -originals left and right from You Can Conquer Cancer
Ian Gawler Chest wall photographs – originals left and right from You Can Conquer Cancer – note date concurs with first ever article Meares Oct 1978 MJA

Why are the dates so important- and why would anyone bother changing them?
The photographs at the correct date as listed above give creedence to the development of advanced and ongoing TB and therefore creedence to the Haines and Lowenthal IMJ paper. Original photographs in my possession clearly show Ian and the size of the chest wall calcifications during and after chemotherapy. As well, film taken by me in the Philippines (our second trip) January 1977 clearly show Ian Gawler post chemotherapy; the size of the ‘bumps’ is very evident.  These films were removed from You Tube by an unauthorised person known to me . Sadly they form an important part of evidence to support further investigation and resolve of Ian Gawler’s case.

There will always remain the unconvinced loyalists who refuse to look at facts and scientific evidence.   It is also understandable when a long held belief is questioned; that it challenges community values and hope when any story surrounding cancer is found to be not as we thought it to be. But in the majority, a discerning medical profession and public is reading, noting, asking questions and they are also seeing that comments and mistakes like those written above in this important medical history simply don’t add up!

Please keep asking questions….email