Ian Gawler is well known in Australia for his miraculous recovery from osteosarcoma by foregoing conventional treatment in favour of diet and meditation, and his subsequent Foundation, books, tours, retreats and other merchandising.
The Gawler Foundation provides a range of internationally renowned cancer healing retreats and programs that embrace an integrated approach to health, healing and wellbeing that includes the body, emotions, mind and spirit.
Our cancer programs and healing retreats work within an integrative medical framework to provide access to the best possible instruction and support for the implementation of self-help techniques for people experiencing cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and other serious illnesses, and those seeking a preventative approach to health and wellbeing.
In 2008 the Medical Journal of Australia published an article detailing a case of recovery from osteosarcoma. Dr Gawler's first wife, Grace, wrote to the Journal last year (but the letter has only now been published) disputing a number of claims in that article, and identifying the patient as her previous husband and asserting that he did not, in fact, use a vegan diet prior to his cancer cure.
An appraisal of the patient’s symptoms, combined with an accurate clinical history, reveals a more plausible scientific hypothesis for his remission than the effects of diet and meditation. Although diet and meditation may be adjuncts to a patient’s wellbeing, it is unlikely in this case that they were curative, and certainly veganism was not a relevant factor. Immunotherapy with BCG vaccine treatments, the timing of symptoms and the patient’s eventual diagnosis of tuberculosis could be associated with his remission, as postulated by his radiation oncologist in 1978. There is extensive scientific literature about remission of cancer, including osteosarcoma, associated with febrile conditions.
The patient’s sporadic visits to doctors meant that metastases were not diagnosed histologically and much of the information reported on his case is anecdotal. Clearly, in this and other cases, unbiased investigative scientific research needs to be undertaken before reporting anecdotes and extrapolations as if they were fact. Teasing apart the errors in Jelinek and Gawler’s story, now on the public record and almost medical myth, is an enormous task, but one that must be done, because correctly reporting the patient’s clinical timeline is crucial in any discussion about the causes of his remission and the flow-on effect to cancer patients and their treating doctors.
George Jelinek and (Dr Gawler's current wife) Ruth Gawler also respond in the same issue, disputing Grace Gawler's claims, though noting that their report was written 30 years after the fact, and concluding
The case history is certainly complex and compelling. The message is clear: unexpected recovery from disseminated cancer remains a possibility, and is likely to be influenced by lifestyle factors.
"A possibility" and "likely" seem to emphasise the weakness of the argument. It hardly seems the basis for the marketing of a whole lifestyle business. EoR is also confused about how this claimed recovery is also applicable to Multiple Scelerosis which Dr Gawler also runs retreats for.
The Australian, in reporting this issue, notes
Dr Gawler said he believed it was "inappropriate" of the MJA to allow him to be identified, and that the journal had breached medical ethics by publishing the letter.
MJA editor Martin Van Der Weyden rejected the accusation, saying Dr Gawler had already "capitalised on this 'spontaneous cure' " through his foundation and biography, where the events had also been recorded.
Grace Gawler also has a blog where she discusses this matter, and notes a number of deaths of people seeking alternative cures to cancer (including a number of deaths currently before the WA Coroner).
It should be noted that Grace Gawler also promotes "integrated" cancer treatments, including the completely spurious reiki.