Updated 18 April 2017

Living proof: a medical mutiny

What happens when an academic gets cancer? He enlists all his scientist friends to prove science is flawed.

by Michael Gearin-Tosh

The author was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable form of bone-marrow cancer, when he was 54, and given six months to live.

Eight years later, he published this account of his response to the news, which was pretty much to ignore medical advice (since the advice was that he was due to die) and do his own thing. It's all told through the interactions of close friends, and through literature – he was an English tutor at Oxford for 35 years – which makes it, on a level, a celebration of kindness and friendship.

His challenges to the scientific establishment were debated by his academic colleagues and the medical establishment, some of whom were furious and some intrigued; his utterly eccentric quackery around healing likewise was hugely controversial in his intellectually exacting world.

Medical science would not naturally take to a regime involving twelve glasses a day of fresh vegetable juice, vitamin injections, coffee enemas, acupuncture, visualisations, Chinese breathing techniques… Truth is, though, it worked (or maybe he was just an unusually lucky man), for his health at the time of writing was robust enough.

I couldn't help myself, and Googled him to see whether he is still alive, five years after the 2002 book. Sadly, not. He died in 2005, but interestingly it was from an infection, not cancer.

(Review by Heather Parker)


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