TB or not TB? A second opinion on Ian Gawler’s cancer ‘cure’
Today Tonight segment; Cancer ‘guru’ miracle worker?
It is hard to believe that one year on from http://www.smh.com.au/national/cancer-experts-challenge-gawlers-cure-20111230-1pfns.html that Channel 7’s Today Tonight (TT) recently chose to run a story that yet again smokescreens the actual question of TB or not TB-in other words; a diagnosis of secondary bone cancer or TB? Writing recently in “The “Conversation”online Prof George Jelinek and Guy Allenby
author of Ian Gawler’s Biography – The Dragon’s Blessing made a creative play on those famous words from Hamlet….To be or not to be with their TB or not TB.
[ ‘The Conversation” is an online independent source of analysis, commentary and news from the university and research sector viewed by 550,000 readers each month.}
I had decided that I was not going to write on this subject on my blog again, however TT and the Conversation both appeared to misrepresent Ian Gawler’s recovery story and promote the implication yet again “If Ian did it I can do it too” theme. This in combination with TT”s cursory glance at a well written hypothesis by eminent professors of Oncology that lasted but a few seconds, left many wondering what the segment was trying to achieve. Anyway the segment concerned me so deeply that to end 2012 – I thought it necessary to make what I hope is a final comment on this subject.
To begin with there are two crucial points to address:
- TT gave neither professor a right of reply to address their reasons for the hypothesis they published. Rather we see Prof Ian Olver from the Cancer Council making an unrelated comment about the use of alternative medicine!
- In the TT interview Ian Gawler states: “It is clearly a personal attack on his story and his Integrity.”
If patients could access the 2012 IMJ Haines and Lowenthal Hypothesis – They would find in fact that Professors Haines and Lowenthal approached Ian Gawler and his story in a somewhat kindly and dignified manner. Certainly not a Spanish Inquisition or a personal attack as has been claimed! It is on the record in fact that Prof Haines politely asked to review Ian Gawler’s case – and as should have happened in such a public health matter, Ian Gawler accepted then withdrew and the matter was in the hands of a litigator. The Hypothesis paper was then forwarded to the Internal Medicine Journal who appropriately believed it to be in the public interest to publish. Surprisingly, there had never been a medical investigation into the reasons why Ian Gawler recovered.
To quote from Haines and Lowenthal’s controversial IMJ Hypothesis:
“In presenting this hypothesis, we emphasise that we are not in any way criticising the patient’s medical attendants who unquestionably acted fully in accordance with the standards of the time. Indeed, the need to consider obtaining histological confirmation of presumed metastatic disease is only now becoming part of standard oncological practice. We note that one of the leading textbooks of oncology states in its latest edition in relation to possible cancer recurrence: ‘Whenever possible, tissue acquisition for diagnostic confirmation . . . should be considered.’
“Whatever the correct diagnosis, we acknowledge the courage and determination of the patient that allowed him to recover from a prolonged and very debilitating illness. We especially note the psychological resilience that enabled him to overcome the dire prognosis he was given that fortunately turned out to be inaccurate.
Nonetheless, there is an aphorism, attributed to the late Carl Sagan, that exceptional claims require exceptional evidence. We contend that unequivocal evidence that the patient was cured of widespread metastases is lacking, and that the unusual treatments that were employed in this case cannot be held out as an example of a path to be followed by other patients with metastatic cancer.”
- Ian Gawler calls the paper by Professors Haines and Lowenthal “shoddy science that doesn’t warrant being printed in a reputable journal” yet the 2008 MJA “True Stories” about his story contains a minimum of 6 major errors including the vegan diet that Ian never had and timeline inversions that made it appear that he had more disease than he had at a critical time in the story, (both later confirmed as errors by Ian Gawler) plus countless omissions and extrapolations that lead to a false conclusion in the ‘Discussion’.
The authors of the 2008 MJA are Prof Jelinek who works with Ian Gawler and Dr Ruth Gawler who is married to Ian Gawler.
Both personal andfinancial conflicts of interest were not disclosed although at the time Then we find that the paper has been critically reviewed by Dr Sandra Neate who also made ‘helpful suggestions’ – however once again, no disclosure of conflict of interest. Dr Sandra Neate is in fact married to Prof Jelinek and involved in his MS work which is now a part of the Gawler Foundation’s work.
The 2008 Gawler/Jelinek MJA reports a very different version of Ian Gawler’s recovery story than the dates and records kept by Ian Gawler and myself and disclosed in interviews on the public record; the latter that Haines and Lowenthal accessed to begin their investigation.
Haines and Lowenthal Conflict of Interest statement IMJ 2012
Conflict of interest: None.
Disclaimer: All clinical details in this manuscript have come from publicly available sources, which have been cited. We did not use or have access to any privileged material.
When promoting the TT segment on his blog Ian Gawler says: “There is nothing quite as compelling as a personal story well told….” However, the authors of the Internal medicine Journal hypothesis Haines and Lowenthal could likely have filled a large room with their survivors from conventional therapies alone. But ethically they would prefer to talk about statistics in recovery so that Patients are not put under pressure.
- I have always been disturbed by the responsibility placed on the shoulders of recovered cancer patients to promote a cause. It is even more difficult when patients have had some conventional treatments then turn to Ian Gawler’s methods – What healed? What Cured, are the unanswerable questions.
Patients often want testimonials – they want to be inspired by hope of a recovery; but ethically this can be challenging and place undue pressure on patients to “live up” to their stories. In the early days of the Gawler Foundation I knew that Ian’s Story was largely anecdotal and in those days no one would have been able to put the pieces of the puzzle together because the public record evidence was scattered and in the absence of any other plausible explanation; it appeared that he had indeed recovered from secondary bone cancer. He chose to go public with his story in 1978 reporting it first of all to Ainslie Meares with whom he spent 6 weeks in Jan-Feb 1976 early in the diagnosis of the now questionable secondary cancer (Meares hypothesised that cancer might be treatable – maybe even curable with intensive meditation) It is likely Meares did not know there was no biopsy ; nor is it likely he knew about Ian Gawler’s TB diagnosis and that Ian Gawler likely had undiagnosed TB at the time he first consulted Meares. Confusing isn’t it!
Since 2010 I am Director of a Cancer Institute – a not for profit charity – gifted by a grateful patient following my 13 year battle for my own survival that began in 1997. I meticulously recorded my own case when I was well enough and particularly after becoming a world first for what is best described as a ‘bionic colon’. Accurate medical records are incredibly important to keep for many reasons including for any ongoing treatments that may be necessary or to authenticate your experience at a later date. This becomes imperative if you are going to share your survival skills with others. Transparency and proof of evidence must be available and up to scrutiny.
We take great care with gathering research data for our Institute and this year we will be prioritising a research student to begin reviewing data. Psycho-oncology interventions including stress reduction can be researched for their impact on Wellbeing, Quality of Life and Survivorship – no one is disputing this because we know and have known for some time that these interventions help cancer patients tremendously. We are interested to research the impact of new cancer medicine treatments available overseas when combined with the best of psycho oncology and basic lifestyle changes. We believe this is a positive move forward in a collaborative and truly Holistic style of medicine.
But ……returning to the play on words from Will Shakespeare’s most quoted quote TB or not TB?
I am concerned – deeply concerned that since the question of TB or not TB has been raised by Profs Haines and Lowenthal that another edition of ‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ has appeared in bookstores.
The latest edition has little mention of the Ian Gawler story and the role of TB in Ian’s recovery but does include the original Gawler-Jelinek 2008 MJA “True Stories” that caused me to write a corrections response to the MJA that was published in September 2010. The rebuttal or right of reply from the authors was poor, failing to address the key issues I had raised. Then – there are the famous photos of Ian’s chest wall – now after 16 reprints and 250,000+ copies sold – the photograph dates are deemed incorrect – yet these dates were supplied with said photos to Ainslie Meares by Ian Gawler sometime between May and October 1978. Meares was the first to publish them in the MJA.
All of the above served to pique the interest of Haines and Lowenthal who from a scientific point of view saw a duty of care to investigate further.
Unfortunately the series of errors of fact coupled with inverted timelines and omissions in Australia’s most famous cancer remission do not smack of any Comedy of Errors to quote Will Shakespeare again. In all seriousness, the lives of cancer patients are at risk and the importance of transparency and accuracy of reporting becomes more imperative by the day.
In this scenario; there is no comedy; only tragedy for the patients who believe “if Ian Gawler did it then I can do it too”. This is a mantra that I hear in my office weekly or from patients I meet in overseas cancer clinics who have tried “the Gawler residential programs and the diet of meditation, positive thinking and a vegan life. I see them in Germany in their droves; those that are fortunate enough to make it through despite large tumour loads. Now that I am more informed about the likelihood that Ian Had TB and not secondary cancer – I feel a sense of despair for patients who might abandon conventional medicine in the belief that they too can Conquer Cancer naturally as is erroneously written in the 2008 Gawler Jelinek MJA.
Reading the 2008 MJA text you are told that only after he had tried conventional treatments chemotherapy and radiation that Ian Gawler consulted Ainslie Meares and pursued intensive meditation and other lifestyle therapies. Definitely NOT so and this error in reporting the case has not only misinformed cancer patients (it was easily accessed through being displayed on the Gawler Foundation website) but the errors of fact has also served to mislead integrative doctors and GPs working with cancer patients.
When asked by the Age Newspapers medical reporter “about apparent inconsistencies and omissions in the ways he has presented his own complicated medical history, Gawler acknowledges that over time some of the details have become muddied. But, he says, ”Who cares?” The real story, he maintains, is the people he has helped heal in the years since then. ”That is about my story, not my work. People can convert hope from that story into the reality that the work can offer. By trying to attack my diagnosis they [Haines and Lowenthal] are in effect attacking the work, which was clearly their motive.”
- Add to all the above a comment by leading German integrative oncologist Professor Alexander Herzog, who has revealed a similar case of advanced TB masquerading as bone cancer, said: ”It was clear from the beginning the Gawler case was TB. This was a misdiagnosis.’
‘Herzog said Gawler’s patients may have been ”misled” into believing they too could be cured by alternative means
As we move into the New Year my hope is that the Mystery of Ian Gawler’s recovery is lain to rest
The burden of proof should not fall on the shoulders of cancer patients like Scott Stephens, or employees or friends of the Gawler Foundation. The question remains for Ian Gawler to address in a scientific manner – TB or Not TB – That is still the question!!
So will the question be answered in 2013 – who knows? I am not holding my breath- but I hope so for everyone’s sake – especially cancer patients.
As far as walking on water goes….I think I will stick to boats!
I was surprised to see this image float by on my TV screen. Today Tonight usually do not have such elaborate graphics. I am unsure as many others have commented to me, if the segment was an organised promo or if it was meant to cast doubt or was it a spoof.
Image: Cancer ‘guru’ miracle worker? walking on water.
Links: For all relevant links – PDF files etc visit: http://gracegawler.com/Institute/mja