13 February 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: More on the Inquisition and ground breaking news for MS

This week, coinciding with publication news concerning impressive research from the MS groups I have been involved with, it is clear there is a concerted push being mounted against Integrative Medicine, along with Complementary Medicine and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The lobby group calling themselves “Friends of Science in Medicine” has been active in the press and is targeting University leaders to ban the teaching of CAM in medical schools.

To quote from a recent press release from the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA): “Recent statements made by the lobby group calling themselves “Friends of Science in Medicine” are reprehensible for their lack of scientific rigor as they choose to ignore tens of thousands of peer reviewed or referenced publications supporting the efficacy of numerous natural and nutritional therapies.  This is a blatant mis-representation of information to the public and to the university vice chancellors they are lobbying.

AIMA gives our full and ongoing support for the teaching of university based courses which incorporate the study of complementary and alternative therapies which are evidence-based.  We also strongly support any university based research currently being undertaken or proposed in the field of complementary and alternative medicine.

It would seem all of this corresponds with the attack by Haines and Lowenthal questioning my diagnosis of secondary cancer. The MS research news is timely, as it demonstrates the efficacy of the lifestyle program in MS; the program that is so similar to the cancer program; the program that we know works for cardiac disease and for diabetes.

So this week a guest blog from Paul Bedson – senior therapist at the Gawler Foundation. Paul had a heavily edited version of his letter to the editor published in the Age; here it is reproduced in its entirety.

To the Editor,
I have been working as a senior therapist at the Gawler Foundation (TGF) for 10 years now.
I know the work, the clients and I know the founder, Ian Gawler. I feel compelled to respond to some of the inaccuracies in the front page story Dec. 31, 2011 entitled “Cancer experts challenge Gawler’s ‘cure’.

The first inaccuracy: quoting your article, “the 61year-old doctor’s books on curing cancer without conventional medicine are bestsellers.”  Ian never discourages cancer patients from mainstream medical interventions. In You Can Conquer Cancer he says “diet, meditation and positive thinking can be added as supportive measures to any medical therapy.”

The Gawler Foundation openly advocates an integrative approach to dealing with cancer. This integrative approach may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, complementary therapies e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine, psychosocial support, meditation, relaxation, nutritional and lifestyle changes. TGF informs patients of the whole range of treatment interventions that are available to them and supports their informed choices. Informed and empowered patients have been shown to have better outcomes.

The second inaccuracy: quoting your article, “His foundation’s residential program  …  have treated more than 15,000 sufferers”. TGF is not a treatment facility We do not offer medical interventions of a mainstream or complementary nature. We offer information, psychosocial support, inspiration, hope and peace of mind.

We inform patients about the emerging field called ‘lifestyle medicine’ and the possibility of improving their prognosis through dietary changes, moderate exercise, relaxation, meditation, counselling, group support, journaling, creativity, laughter, healthy relationships and accepting one’s mortality. This “lifestyle medicine” is grounded in current, worldwide research not just based on Ian’s personal story. We do not give any guarantees or make any claims of “a cure”, but we are passionate and committed to helping cancer patients improve their prognosis and quality of life.

The third inaccuracy: quoting your article, “Professor Haines said he was distressed at seeing terminal cancer patients who had chosen alternative therapies over conventional medicine after diagnosis.”

Although I can appreciate Prof. Haines distress, fortunately we live in a free society which respects the patient’s right to choose whatever course of treatment they trust. TGF respects that right and gives patients a broader range of information from which they can make their informed choices; not choices made from desperation, fear or lack of knowledge.
TGF does not recommend one treatment/approach over another, but does fill in the vacuum or lack of information presented by conventional medicine.

The fourth inaccuracy: quoting your article, Professor Haines says, “I’ve seen beautiful young girls with their whole lives ahead of them and they go into these holistic therapies and spend hundred of thousands of dollars and then in the end we have to look after them…..”

The implication here is that TGF is one of these holistic therapies that charges hundred of thousands of dollars. This implication is misleading, wrong and irresponsible. The main program TGF offers cancer patients (and their family support person) is a ten-day residential program in the Yarra Valley. The cost of the program including accommodation, all meals, lectures and workshops is under $3000 per person.

TGF is a registered not-for-profit organisation and the income from running our programs has to be supplement by fund-raising activities.

Overall your article casts dispersions on the integrity of Gawler Foundation and its founder, Ian Gawler based on a so-called “medical report” which is really just an unsubstantiated hypothesis. Far from deserving front-page status, the story smells distinctly of a “tall poppy” vendetta against a man who many know to be honourable and forthright and whose life’s work which has helped thousands of cancer patients.

To rectify the damage which this type of reporting can do to the good name of the man and the credibility of his work, and in the name of balanced journalism, I invite you to interview myself or any number of the cancer patients which have benefited so greatly by the work of TGF.

Yours Sincerely,

Paul Bedson (BA,BAcup,BCouns)                                                                                
Senior Therapist, the Gawler Foundation


1. MS research accepted for publication

Great news, the research evaluating the 5 year follow-up on people attending the lifestyle-based program for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) that Prof George Jelinek and I established and that has been presented for years now at the Gawler Foundation has been accepted for publication in the journal Neurological Sciences.

Happily MS is easier to research than the cancer work I have been involved in, and this 5 year follow-up study reports on 165 people. The data demonstrates an improvement of around 20% on each of overall quality of life, physical health composite and mental health composite. By contrast, the average expectation across the board for the many thousands of people with MS who have been tracked is for around 10% declines in these figures over a 5 year period.  The people who attended the program have recorded a nett 30% gain! To my knowledge no drug has been demonstrated to come close to this level of benefit.

The full title of the paper is "Health-related quality of life outcomes at one and five years after a residential retreat promoting lifestyle modification for people with multiple sclerosis", and it is likely to appear in the journal in about 3 months, at which time we can talk about it more fully.

2. Talk on Sustainability.

As part of the Sustainability Festival, Paul Bedson and I will combine to present an hour on the topic of “A Sustainable Self”. I get to talk about food and other lifestyle delights; Paul will focus on the mind and meditation. Click here for details.

3. Jacqui Dodds is a psychotherapist of some insight and manages a great website called East/West Wisdom. On her latest blog she has a compelling article that is well worth a read titled Narcissism as defence or delusion?


1. On the diagnosis controversy

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition
And another thing
A survivor’s bemusement

2. On evidence in medicine

It only has to be done once
Just give me the facts
Recovery from MS is possible
Recovery from cancer is possible



Overcoming MS – an Evidence Based Guide to Recovery: George Jelinek
You Can Conquer Cancer: Ian Gawler


For Prof Jelinek


Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis – healing program for MS at the Gawler Foundation


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thanks Ian, It is shameful that the group calling themselves, Friends of Science in Medicine are allowed to discredit such good work as The Gawler Foundation does, which can be attested to by countless people who have received help and hope through that Foundation.