Friday, November 12, 2010

When facts meet merchandising

What is it about altie promoters and their (first and second) wives?

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.


  1. Good to see your comments on this story - it seems that the internet is the only way when wrongs that no one chooses to see, need to be brought to the public's attention. There has always been a problem getting this story to the press accurately. The Australian Press, ABC TV/radio and commercial stations including Channel 9's A Current Affair are reluctant to get into the public arena with this simply because they have heavily promoted Ian Gawler and the Gawler Foundation for decades.
    Add to that a PR & reputation management group and one sees an almost impossible barrier to getting the story to the people who need it most - Cancer patients and those who support them. To those not trained in the therapeutic approach - vegan diets and inverted timelines altering a clinical history and long periods of meditation probably seem harmless enough. This is the current view of Gawler Foundation's CEO, who also stated in a recent defamation threat that The MJA article is not connected with The Gawler Foundation. I quote from the letter sent to me by a Melbourne Law firm. "The Gawler Foundation bases its practices on the latest best practice as relevant to concern patients. It does not base its practices on the journey of its founder. Specifically today it does not base its practices on whether its founder was vegan or not.
    Contrary to the impression given by you, the Foundation was not the author nor associated with the article."
    Now this is most confusing given the authors work for the Gawler Foundation and given that the Foundation published the 2008 MJA article
    On their website (gawlerfoundationmedia) on December 10 2008 - even before the MJA was released! If anyone is interested in obtaining proof that 2008 MJA "True Stories" by Ruth Gawler & George Jelinek is indeed mostly not true - then please contact me.
    Patients must know that these things were not the key to Ian Gawler's recovery so at least they can choose from fact not fallacy.
    I must add my approach with integrated treatments is not based on alternative medicine - in fact I spend a lot of time convincing patients to return to orthodox medicine as well as providing emotional and psycho-social support. I support Reiki Australia as their Patron - I am not a Reiki practitioner - but I do recognise cancer patients need for safe touch without the often intrusive need to remove clothes as in massage.
    In my practice I see people emaciated & weak from following the "new-look" Gawler Foundation routine - and so far I have not seen anyone damaged by any of Reiki Australia's practitioners. It has always been my aim to support and inspire - but not harm. Known for my stance on professional ethics, I have always considered the cancer patients as a priority. I walked away from my own Foundation in 1996 for reasons of poor professional conduct & ethics that was negatively impacting patients.

    In conclusion - The 2008 MJA "True Stories" in question has huge potential for harm because it adds to the problem given the Gawler Foundation's training of Integrative medicine GPs. This training supported by poor research in a reputable journal such as the MJA, is creating a new culture of medicine.
    I hope this post furthers the cause to break the silence and bring the truth of Ian Gawler's recovery to the public & the medical profession. Grace Gawler

  2. Hi I'm Pip Cornall and I'm Grace's partner. I'm upset by high profile recovered cancer patient stories when they are not accurate because they influence people who are willing to grasp at straws to save their lives.
    Because of Grace's support of Ian Gawler when she was his full time care giver, Grace attracts a lot of 'end stage or palliative' cancer patients.

    Many report being influenced by Ian Gawler's books and his foundation programs and many have turned away from mainstream medicine. All these patients are in a much worse state - typically suffering emaciation and chronic low sodium such that body functions are compromised.

    Many are trying to meditate their cancer away. All are dismayed when Grace informs them that much of Ian Gawler's healing story is inaccurate. They are crest fallen to hear so but most will then adopt an integrated approach and come back into mainstream medicine.

    Truth is crucial for cancer patients and therefore I've written extensively about this case on my blog at


  3. Good to have responses from you both, Grace Gawler and Pip Cornall, thanks. I am also "bemused" by Ian Gawler's choice to put his healing down to any or all of what he encountered, other than his chemotherapy in October 1976.

    On his blog he says:
    "The reality is that I was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma in January 1975, had metastases confirmed in December 1975 and was found to be cancer free in June 1978. What happened in between was quite complex. I tried most things you could think of and probably a few you would not!"

    It is bad when unsubstantiated methods are marketed by those of magical mindsets - but even worse when intelligent medical graduates discard scientific method and accuracy for the sake of a good story.

  4. What in the Name of Science is Going On?

    Talk about discarding the scientific method! If you haven't seen it already - the Australian Doctor published a response from Ian Gawler November 17 2010. This was in response to Dr Linda Calabresi’s editorial ‘Providing hope comes with a duty of truth’ (27 October)where she suggests “the record be set straight”.

    Far from anything straight, once again the main issues and errors that were published in the 2008 MJA are ignored, sidestepped; but Ian Gawler does admit that Ainslie Meares intial report of his case October 1978 MJA was incorrect and that Meares reported that he had more severe disease when he first saw him than he actually did. However, Ian Gawler fails to see any significance in this because he survived anyway!! ??
    Basically if someone inverts a medical timeline so that it appears you had a condition that you didn't have at the time... but then claims that your recovery was associated with their sessions that you stopped attending because of rapid deterioration 19 months prior to your actual recovery - then I think there is one very big credibility problem!!
    Ian also admits that these mere (no pun intended) timeline errors were carried over into the 2008 follow-up and I quote.. "..this has little material relevance to the important facts."
    Well is the only important fact the he survived? What about all the other errors and omissions? And - Why is Ian Gawler now defending the 2008 MJA article when he is not the Author?
    Where are the authors - Ruth Gawler and George Jelinek and why are they the silent around the issue especially now when some of the truth is out in the light of day? Hmmmmm there are more questions than there are answers so I am left confused, disappointed and somewhat despondent therefore I will finish the same way I began... What in the name of science is going on?
    Grace Gawler
    Source Australian Doctor


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