Failure of bureaucratic campaign against free speech
The Cancer Act 1939 makes it illegal to advertise any kind of cancer treatment in the UK. While non-orthodox practitioners cannot advertise to potential patients, it is, however, still legal to discuss non-orthodox treatments – as it clearly should be in any country that claims a vestige of free speech! If the recent experiences of the Totnes Cancer Health Care Conference (TCHCC) are anything to go by, however, UK authorities – cheered on by anti-natural health skeptics – would like to change all that.
The Conference and the role of Trading Standards
The TCHCC was set up by Dr Stephen Hopwood, who runs the Arcturus Clinic and Totnes Cancer Help Centre, as a forum for international experts – including Rob Verkerk of ANH-Intl – to discuss, “The idea that if our body’s immune and endocrine systems are correctly functioning, well supported and balanced physiologically then cancer is less likely to arise”.
When a conference such as the TCHCC is scheduled, the UK authorities in the form of the Trading Standards Institute has the power to cancel the event if it is seen to be breaking the law – such as by promoting cancer treatments to the public. On Tuesday 20th March, the TCHCC organisers were informed that Trading Standards officers were investigating the conference, prompted by a local Member of Parliament (MP) – also a medical practitioner – who was particularly concerned about one speaker, Dr Tullio Simoncini. Dr Simoncini is well known for his controversial view that cancer is a fungus that can be treated using sodium bicarbonate, which remains a fringe position even in non-orthodox cancer thought. That of course doesn’t make it unworthy of discussion. We would have been interested to find out, for example, what molecular evidence Dr Simoncini had for his theory that cancer cells are actually fungal cells. Can all those years of research on oncogenesis be wrong? Highly unlikely we would say.
In a letter that Dr Hopwood sent to the TCHCC speakers on 21st March, Dr Hopwood revealed that he had spoken to a Trading Standards officer on the 20th, and had removed certain material from his website following the officer’s guidance that it included cancer treatment recommendations. Bizarrely, one of the frowned-upon items was a link to a story about turmeric on the BBC News website!
Dr Hopwood also took the decision to remove Dr Simoncini from the Conference lineup. These changes made, he informed Trading Standards and was told to expect a swift decision on whether the event was now compliant with legislation.
Beyond the Cancer Act 1939
More than 48 hours later, on the morning of Friday 23rd March, Dr Hopwood finally received an official decision from Trading Standards. “Unless it is part of a notice between certain classes of profession, such as registered medical practitioners,” read the letter, “The Cancer Act 1939 creates a criminal offence to take any part in the publication of any advertisement [for cancer treatment]. Your website and the conference itself does not fall into any of these exempt categories.” In an even wider interpretation of the Cancer Act 1939, the officer continued, “Even the title of the conference and the title of your clinic, in our view, are likely to breach the legislation because of their promotion of cancer treatment.” So now the word ‘cancer’ next to the words ‘help’, ‘health’ or ‘care’ is seemingly illegal? The mind boggles.
Courage in adversity
Dr Hopwood has elected not to cave in response to Trading Standards. In his response, he points out that, “We are not promoting any therapy for the prevention or treatment of cancer...we are administering a range of healthcare modalities that are known to help support the body in a diseased state, particularly when affected by cancer.” Furthermore, “There was never intended to be any goods or services sold or advertised at the conference. Additionally no advice was intended to be given that related to the treatment of cancer...The conference itself represents merely an exchange of information and views, albeit related to the theme of cancer.”
Friday 23rd March is the first time that anything has been received in writing about the conference itself breaching the Cancer Act of 1939, despite the lack of any goods and services being advertised, promoted or sold there for the treatment of cancer. It was intended to be convened purely for educational purposes as an exchange of views and information relating to the theme of cancer, amongst other general health discussions. It appears that further bullyboy tactics on the part of the Council and threats of arrests and prosecutions have been employed through the day today. As a result, whilst the Totnes Cancer Health Care Conference may not be able to be run in the original form, a ‘private conversation’ for invited guests will take place at a private location, namely the Eden Rise, just outside of Totnes.
If you would like to take part in that conversation, please telephone The Arcturus Clinic on 01803 868282 for an invitation or email [email protected]. Anyone in the south-west of the UK, or beyond, with an interest in cancer or the freedom to discuss alternative theories without hassle from the authorities should get along and show their support. As Dr Hopwood says in his response to Trading Standards, “Your declaration of the conference itself as a breach of the Cancer Act imposes an infringement on freedom of speech.”
More than ever before, advocates of health practices that look beyond the mainstream need to organise, both proactively and reactively, to defend their rights and freedoms.