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Belle Gibson: Wellness blogger who claimed to have cancer will be prosecuted by consumer watchdog

Gibson claimed she cured cancer with healthy food and alternative therapies 

Heather Saul
Friday 06 May 2016 16:00 BST
Belle Gibson claimed to have embarked on ‘a quest to heal herself naturally’
Belle Gibson claimed to have embarked on ‘a quest to heal herself naturally’

An Australian blogger who claimed to have survived terminal brain cancer because of diet and lifestyle changes is facing legal action for “misleading and deceptive conduct”.

Belle Gibson launched an app and published a book off the back of her false claim that she had cured her cancer with a gluten- and sugar-free diet and alternative therapies, as opposed to conventional medicine, inspiring thousands of people around the world.

She also claimed she had cancer of the blood, spleen, uterus and liver.

But Gibson, a mother of one, later admitted her claims about having terminal cancer were untrue, and it became apparent that funds from sales she had pledged to donate to charity had allegedly not been distributed.

Consumer Affairs Victoria is now looking to prosecute Gibson for allegedly breaking consumer laws. The watchdog said in a statement: “The alleged contraventions relate to false claims by Ms Gibson and her company concerning her diagnosis with terminal brain cancer, her rejection of conventional cancer treatments in favour of natural remedies, and the donation of proceeds to various charities."

Simon Cohen, the director of CAV, said their action is an important step in ensuring “consumers receive only verified information and are not deceived, particularly where serious matters of health and medical treatment are concerned”.

In an interview with 60 Minutes after her cancer diagnosis was first revealed to be untrue, Gibson stoked public anger by showing little remorse throughout.

She said she was wrongly diagnosed by a German alternative medical practitioner in 2009 and believed she had cancer until 2011 when a scan showed she was completely healthy.

She said finding out she did not have cancer was “traumatising” for her and insisted she had planned to tell her followers but the media beat her to it.

“Once I received the definite, ‘No, you do not have cancer,’ that was something I had to come to terms with and it was really traumatising and I was feeling a huge amount of grief,” she said.

She claimed to be 26 years old, but it later transpired that she had two birth documents and may actually be 23. She says she is not sure of her age.

Her cookbook, The Whole Pantry, was published by Penguin, who later admitted the claims within it had not been verified. Penguin has said it will donate A$30,000 to the Victorian Consumer Law Fund.

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