The Great British Charity Swindle

How the Charity Commission Gives Quacks a Veneer of Legitimacy

The British government has recently been investigating the public benefit provided by charities offering complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). They have stated that to remain qualified for charitable status, an organisation must provide evidence that the therapy being offered is capable of delivering the claimed benefits. In the case of Gerson Support Group (GSG), the organisation’s own trustees acknowledged that the evidence around their therapy, and its claims to treat cancer, would now not meet the government’s low bar criteria for registration as a charity. Essentially, the now former charity has publicly stated that they did not operate to benefit the public and have been scamming cancer sufferers with the help of the Charity Commision for decades. The now defunct organisation still in some capacity continues to promote Gerson Therapy to the British public via other questionable charities, after donating a sizable chunk of their assets after their demise. The Charity Commision has failed in its duty to protect the British public from snake-oil-salesmen and has been reluctant in investigating fraudulent organisations it awarded charitable statues to. Although the Gerson Support Group no longer exists, its downfall was not due to the Charity Commision actively investigating pseudo-medical organizations it unintentionally promotes, and somewhat sustains via tax breaks. Its demise was down to a small number of people who over years have challenged the Commission’s decisions and their clandestineness. 

Gerson Therapy is a dietary-based alternative cancer treatment whose proponents erroneously believe that cancer is a symptom of a disease and not disease itself. According to them, disease is caused by the accumulation of unspecified toxins and that hourly glasses of organic juice along with various dietary supplements and enemas of coffee, cancer oil, hydrogen peroxide, and ozone will rid the body of said unspecified toxins. Only by strictly adhering to every aspect of the diet and its techniques – which according to a Gerson official takes between 40 and 50 hours a week – can the “patient’s” cancer be cured.

Gerson Therapy by far the most difficult of all CAM treatments to follow which I believe is by design. The calculated draconian rules are designed to extract as much money as possible from dying people by conning them into buying expensive pointless equipment, or spending their life savings visiting an elaborate smoothie bar in Mexico. It is designed to give fraudulent data regarding their success rates by purposefully not following up on patients after leaving the clinics. It is designed for people to struggle so when they inevitably fail they can be blamed for their death.

For more information on Gerson Therapy check out my video below. 

Gerson Therapy is a generational scam where descendants of the therapy’s developer, Max Gerson, are more than happy to leave a wake of emaciated bodies and broken families behind them. Gerson Therapy has been known since the 1940s, when Gerson unsuccessfully tried to convince the National Cancer Institute of his diet’s miraculous properties to be utter nonsense; however this has not stopped the Gerson family from fleecing vulnerable people out of their life savings before inevitably blaming them for their own death. 

The hereditary peer, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, who, before his death was the chairman of the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board and joint chairman of the Parliamentary Group for Alternative and Complementary Medicine, helped bring Gerson Therapy to the UK in the 90s after inviting daughter of Max Gerson, Charlotte Gerson to address the House of Lords to explain her theory. In 1997, the Gerson Support Group was registered as a charity to “relieve sickness and to preserve and promote good health by providing support to cancer patients”. The charity’s website made bold statements about Gerson Therapy’s ability to treat medical conditions which were not supported by the scientific evidence and were clearly made to mislead the public. 

“The Gerson Therapy is scientifically evolved natural protocol which utilizes the body’s own healing mechanism in the treatment and alleviation of chronic degenerative diseases” – Gerson Support Group Website

The theories on which Gerson Therapy is based have not been substantiated by scientific research and many individual elements have no scientific basis. There is no reason why juice made using a $2000 juicer has magical anti-cancer properties, but juice made using a cheap device bought from Walmart hasn’t.

Gerson Juicer

Expensive Gerson Juicer

There is also nothing natural about sticking bean juice or poisonous ozone up your arse to somehow stimulate your liver into producing more bile which will somehow cure you of your cancer. In reality, ozone is intrinsically toxic and coffee enemas are associated with risk of health including infection, dehydration, fits, constipation, mineral imbalance, heart and lung problems, and in extreme cases even death. However like all good quacks, the Gerson Support Group website spouts the mantra “pain is healing”.

“In all probability the patient will experience so called flare-ups or detoxifying reactions. These reactions are part of the body’s way of healing itself. They bring weakness, flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite and other unpleasant effects, but there are tried and tested ways of dealing with these and afterwards the patient usually feels remarkably well. During flare-ups large amounts of toxins are eliminated from the body through all the normal channels.” – Gerson Support Group Website

What toxins?! Surely if large amounts of toxins are eliminated from the body they should be easily identified and the mechanism in which they cause cancer would be known. No Gerson proponents have ever specified what ‘toxins’ are removed by the therapy, nor do they supply evidence that their removal has any clinical benefit. Also the idea that a patient with a serious medical condition should ignore the development of new symptoms is extremely dangerous and could place them at further risk. 

The website also sets the framework for which victims are blamed for their own death.

“The level of commitment required, both financially and practically, is very high. This therapy is a 7 days-a-week, 16 hours-a-day task. The patient will need plenty of rest, so usually cannot be active in preparing food and juices. This means reliable kitchen help is needed, for up to 55-60 hours a week. Family and friends can be organized to help with these chores, or else volunteers or paid help must be found.” – Gerson Support Group Website

The charity was clearly in breach of The Charities Act of 2011 as it operated to exclusively promote an unproven dangerous alternative treatment and therefore was not operating for the public benefit. Furthermore, by claiming that Gerson Therapy can treat cancer they in all likelihood were in breach of The Cancer Act of 1939. The Charity Commission was contacted and asked how such a parasitic and harmful organization could be given charitable status to which they responded that they don’t keep registration documents for longer than 5 years. 

“The Commission’s records retention policy is to destroy those over 5 years old unless they are considered ‘key documents’. This means that we no longer hold copies of Registration documents for most of the charities listed.” Charity Commission. 

The Charity Commision has powers set out in the Charities Acts to conduct statutory investigations and carries out general monitoring of charities as part of its regular casework. How it managed to do this when it destroys records after only 5 years is beyond me, yet between 2018-19 the Commission removed 4812 charities from the register. An impressive number, but begs the question how can so many organisations which the Charity Commision now states don’t exist for the public benefit be given charitable statues? Organisations like The Maun Homeopathy Project, which operates among AIDS patients in Botswana, or The Vaccine Awareness Network which campaigns against vaccines. Retired clinical research consultant Les Rose was asking himself the same question in 2012 over the case of Neon Roberts. 

Seven-year-old Neon Roberts made headlines in the UK in 2012 when his mother, Sally Roberts, resisted conventional treatment for her son who was suffering from aggressive brain cancer. A court ruled after Sally failed to provide evidence to back her claim that radiotherapy was unnecessary, that her son should undergo surgery against her will. Sally responded by going into hiding at a charity called The Institute For The Scotson Technique. A nationwide police hunt ensued and Neon, who is still alive, after being found had a growth the size of a 50p coin removed in an eight-hour operation

After reading about this story Les wanted to know what treatment The Institute For The Scotson Technique gave Neon during his stay. According to their website, the charity promotes a type of exercise which improves the “development and function of a child’s breathing, circulatory and postural systems by the application of uniquely designed light gentle pressures over the ribcage and joints”. Their website is actually very unhelpful and I am still confused as to what The Scotson Technique actually is, however I noted that it got rave reviews from parents who tried it on their children. 

Parent consistently report improvements in their children’s postural flexibility and stability, general limb movement and hand control, speech, vision, understanding and behaviour, communication, sleep, emotional state, bladder and bowel control, chewing and swallowing, digestion, constipation, general health and immunity, seizure reduction, ability to learn and follow instructions, general well-being and happiness.-The Institute For The Scotson Technique Website

Impressed with what the charity was claiming, Les contacted the organization asking to see the evidence for such remarkable claims. According to Linda Scotson who runs the charity, the claims were based on her PhD thesis, which at the time some eight years had passed since she completed the work yet it still had not been written up, let alone published. Les informally notified the Charity Commision who contacted Linda and asked her to remove the unfounded claims on their website which she did promptly. After his little victory Les stopped for a second and thought, how many other charities are also making misleading claims? Quite a lot he found, with one in particular the Gerson Support Group, taking his eye. 

Les became concerned after reading the claims made on the Gerson Support Group’s website, none of which were supported by scientific evidence and took it upon himself to contact one of the charity’s trustees. He wanted to know what specific toxins Gerson Therapy can clear from the body and soon received a reply from the writer and trustee of the Gerson Support Group Nevile Gwynne.

“The removal of each person’s toxins depends on the efficacy of their immune system and is influenced by their habitat. For instance, is it a polluted city centre or a comparatively cleaner country location that is only rich in agro-chemicals? For other people, individual lifestyle and diet have the last word. Moreover, once the body is enabled, e.g. by the Gerson Therapy, to start cleansing itself, it will probably start by getting rid of the easiest load of toxins first and then go on gradually to remove the rest.” – Nevile Gwynne

Along with his nonsensical question dodging response, Neville attempted to defend Gerson Therapy stating that its progenitor, Max Gerson, and his innovations were accepted by his peers. 

 “His medical innovations in relation to treating disease were recognised and appreciated by many people well placed to judge them” – Nevile Gwynne

In reality, the scientific and medical community were less than impressed with Gerson theories or his therapy. As previously mentioned, Gerson’s malpractice insurance was discontinued and was suspended from the New York Medical Society shortly after they reviewed his method for treating cancer. 

“He showed no cases in which it could be demonstrated that a cure of malignant disease had been obtained by his treatment.” – New York County Medical Society

Neville’s distortions of history either show a deep level of unwavering ignorance or willing deception. After reading his rationalization of Max Gerson’s lack of peer-reviewed research on his cure-all therapy, I am inclined to believe the former.

“Dr Gerson’s sole aim was in fact to heal people and save lives, and he never saw producing scientific experiments to be written up in peer-reviewed journals as part of his function.” – Nevile Gwynne

Les, still concerned with what he had found on the Gerson Support Group website contacted the Charity Commission who were surprisingly reluctant to take any action. They saw CAM charities as low priority and seemed not to be concerned nor to understand the dangers of misleading medical information from the unscrupulous organisations they have awarded charitable statuses to. I would go as far as to say that the Charity Commision has a history of taking CAM organizations on their word and not independently verifying their claims before allowing them to obtain tax relief. How else could you explain Homeopathy Medicine for the 21st Century which was registered in 2014 with the purpose of providing “information about the unscientific nature of the attacks on homeopathy”? The organisation clearly was specifically set up to mislead the public, yet the Charity Commission believes such an establishment exists for the benefit of the British people. 

In recent years the Charity Commision seems to have become more proactive after a scaving article was published in The Sunday Times, and the Good Thinking Society looked into the legality of the Commision refusing to deregister charities that were misleading donors and beneficiaries with false claims about health. The Commission agreed to conduct an internal review of their interpretation of the law, and of their internal guidance. The review concluded that to satisfy the ‘public benefit’ requirement and qualify for charitable status, organisations must provide evidence that the therapy being offered is capable of delivering the blamed benefits. Therefore, an organisation like the Gerson Support Group that claims their therapy can cure cancer now needs to provide objective scientific evidence for their claims. Something which they should have been forced to do 25-years ago when they successfully registered as a charity!

Les once again wrote to the commission raising concerns about the Gerson Support Group. This eventually led to the organisation’s own trustees publicly acknowledging that they have been lying to the British public since registering as a charity over 25 years ago. 

“In response to the Commission’s concerns, the organisation’s trustees acknowledged that the evidence around Gerson nutritional therapy, and its claims to treat cancer and its symptoms, would not now meet the Commission’s criteria for registration as a charity.” – Charity Commision 

The Gerson Support Group had amassed £355,508 worth of assets before closing down. After paying administration expenses, the funds left were transferred to “similar health support charities” of which £80,000 was donated to Yes To Life. 

Gerson Therapy Post Balance Sheet Events

Yes To Life is an “integrative cancer care charity” which “empowers people with cancer to make informed decisions about their care options”. They promote many questionable treatments including Gerson Therapy, despite claiming to provide “evidence-based information to those in need”. Their website has an entire section dedicated to Gerson Therapy where they say that, among other things, it has been shown to cure cancer. This is a lie! Gerson Therapy has never been shown to do anything other than rob people of their money and time before blaming them for their own death. In an attempt to prove Gerson Therapies anti-cancer properties, Yes To Life has a section marked “science” where they link to the paper Five-year survival rates of melanoma patients treated by diet therapy after the manner of Gerson: a retrospective review. The paper concludes that people with melanoma undertaking Gerson Therapy had a considerably higher survival rate over a 5-year period. Although 153 people are quoted as being part of the study, the actual number was 249 with the majority being discounted because the Gerson clinic in Mexico was unable to contact them making it the perfect example of self-selection bias. Yes To Life also links to a critical review of the Gerson promoting book “Living Proof”, but attempts to diminish the reviewer’s conclusion that it is “highly misleading and may lead to cancer patients rejecting effective treatments” by calling it an “opinion piece”. 

Yes To Life does more than promoting bogus cancer cures; they also promote the quacks who push this nonsense. The charity also advertises the services of the Gerson Clinic in Mexico and the Gerson Research Organization whose sole existence is to mislead the public. 

I asked Neville if the decision his daughter, Chloe Gwynne, made to donate £80,000 to Yes To Life had anything to do with their promotion of Gerson Therapy to which he responded…

“I am sorry if this will be disappointing to you, but, with the charity being closed down, I am not now involving myself in dealing with questions relating to it.” – Neville Gwynne

For decades, the Charity Commision has helped quacks and parasites target vulnerable people by awarding them charitable status and therefore giving them a veneer of legitimacy. As I have previously said, the Commission has failed in its duty to protect the British public from snake-oil-salesmen and has been reluctant in investigating fraudulent organizations it awarded charitable statuses to until relatively recently. Yes, the Commission has started in recent years to remove charities from the register, but is doing so behind closed doors. The British people have a right to know who has been swindling them, what complementary and alternative medicine to avoid, and what evidence the Charity Commission was given by fraudulent organizations to prove their effectiveness. 

About Myles Power (760 Articles)
Hello Internet! My name is Myles Power and I am a chemist from the North East of England, who loves to make videos trying to counter pseudoscience and debunk quackery in all of its various forms! From the hype around GMOs through to Atrazine turning the freakin’ frogs gay, I’ll try to cut through the nonsense that’s out there!

2 Comments on The Great British Charity Swindle

  1. “The issue of the treatments for cancer is not something the Commission can become involved in. I would advise you to bring your concerns to the attention of the Advertising Standards Authority and the Trading Standards Institute.” – Charities Commission reply to my complaint about the Maperton Trust, 2011. It was a harmonica “charity”, you know, one of those charities for CAM that are basically a shopfront that doesn’t pay tax? If you want the letter exchange, I’ll forward it to you.

    Like

  2. A radionics charity. Not a harmonica one.

    Like

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