Nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming feelings of despair you feel when you hear those words that confirm you have cancer.  In the dark days that follow, many questions such as “why me?” and “will I survive?” never leave you.  Claiming he had cured more than 80 terminal cancer patients, Darryl Jones seemed to have all the answers.  But was he a sage or a charlatan?  In court earlier this month, Jones had his chance to tell his story.

Alternative health practitioners offer hope without proof, often at high prices, to those who can least afford to waste time and money.  There’s the homeopath who claimed he’d cured 17,000 cancer patients and who advised them against surgery; the natural therapist who cautioned against chemotherapy while infusing patients with her own cure of diluted bleach; the vet who made millions of dollars by convincing us that a vegan diet and meditation had helped cure his own terminal illness and the doctors who continue to recommend restrictive diets, coffee enemas and megadose supplement injections.

Jones told his patients that his treatment had been medically proven to bring even the worst cancers under control.

He was not medically trained, but was a body builder whose qualifications consisted of a year 12 education and a diploma of ministries.  He promoted himself as a faith and cancer diet healer with a glib tongue that inspired people to believe that no matter how advanced their disease was, with his help, they could survive.

He operated Queensland-based CANHELP that he said was dedicated to the treatment and prevention of cancer.  He arranged large community meetings where he would invite patients to meet people like themselves who had followed his program with positive results. He claimed that his non-profit, charitable organisation provided education, motivation and support to those seeking to overcome their disease.

He repeated these statements on his website and in his e-books with the reassuring words “Where there is life, there is hope“. He boasted that he would change the health of the nation within 10 years.

With these promises, he was assured of a steady stream of patients eager to sign on the dotted line.

At $3000 he claimed his three-month treatment could cure cancer and was better than proven conventional surgery or chemotherapy.

His program involved patients fasting for several days before drinking pure apricot seed oil.  Also known as amygdalin, Vitamin B17or laetrile, this treatment has been around since the 1950s but studies have found it to be ineffective and potentially toxic.  With immune systems already weakened by their cancers, patient health soon deteriorated.

With a logo that proclaimed “I’ll stand by you”, despite offering a 24-hour counselling service, when they needed him most, Jones failed to answer their calls for help.  As their loved ones died, families soon realised that they had been “sold false hope”.

In March last year, the Australian Consumer & Competition Commission (ACCC) instituted proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia obtaining an interlocutory injunction against Jones over alleged misleading or deceptive conduct.

On Friday February 4, Federal Court Justice John Logan ruled Jones was guilty of breaching the Trade Practices Act and he was banned from claiming he could cure cancer with diet and exercise and was ordered to pay costs.

Despite the claims from alternative therapists, there are no secret cancer cures that are being hidden from you. Doctors and their families get cancer too, so why would they do that?

As a cancer patient, I understand first hand the temptation to seek treatments that don’t require surgery. Before turning your back on proven strategies, no matter what you hear, I encourage you to ask for the evidence. After all, your life may well depend upon it.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off