Skeptic News: Cancer 'healer' foundation in crisis

From: The Age

Controversial cancer healer Ian Gawler’s Gawler Foundation is in crisis following a big drop in customers and forced sackings of staff.

The foundation’s therapeutic director, Siegfried Gutbrod, confirmed eight months’ worth of ”life and living” cancer retreats at the Yarra Valley Living Centre property – costing patients $3500 each – had either been cancelled or under-attended.

The retreats are the philosophical and financial backbone of the foundation. It runs 10 a year for 10 days each, for 35 people a time. The focus is on diet and meditation and retreats are billed as ”complementary” to a patient’s oncological treatment.

It is the first time since the programs began in 1985 that any have been cancelled.

Two retreats this year were cancelled. Six ran with about half the usual number. Two staff have been retrenched. Next year the 10-day cancer retreats will be partially replaced with five-day versions as well as new ”wellbeing” programs.

Suggested reasons for the decline are the economic downturn and several recent exposes of the lack of science and evidence behind the treatments offered.

In 1974 Gawler was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Resultant surgery involved amputation through the hip. Late in 1975, it was believed that the bone cancer had metastasised and spread to lymph nodes inside his pelvis and mediastinum before spreading more widely on the surface of his sternum and through his left lung.
In December 1975, with the assistance of well-known Australian psychiatrist Ainslie Meares, who believed meditation could alter the course of, or even cure cancer, Gawler had adopted a regime of intensive meditation. He also followed a Gerson diet and pursued an intense program of research, introspection and personal development.

In February 1976, Gawler had some palliative radiotherapy and in October 1976 he underwent three cycles of experimental chemotherapy. In 1977 he also had an audience with Sai Baba. In 1981 Gawler co-founded the Melbourne Cancer Support Group, a lifestyle-based self-help program for people with cancer in Australia. The 12-week program was holistic in scope and based upon Gawler’s own beliefs regarding cancer care.

In 1997 Gawler separated from his first wife, Grace Gawler. They divorced in 1999. In 2010, in response to an article in the Medical Journal of Australia about Gawler’s cancer recovery, Grace Gawler disputed some of the facts and timeline regarding his recovery. In the December 2011 edition of Internal Medicine Journal, the online journal of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, two oncologists, Ian Haines from Cabrini Hospital and Ray Lowenthal from Hobart, published a report that no biopsy of Gawler for secondary cancer had been made and suggested that all of his symptoms were consistent with tuberculosis and that this may have been his actual medical condition.

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