Alternative medicine

Alternative medicine charity ends after regulator ‘identifies concerns’ about its public interest

A charity which has promoted complementary and alternative medicine to cancer patients has decided to withdraw after its involvement with the Charity Commission.

Gerson Support Group, which aimed to promote diet-based treatments, nutritional supplements and enemas, was removed from the charity register after the regulator opened a compliance case in its work.

Charities that promote alternative medicine or therapies must provide “objective scientific evidence” to support their claims, according to the commission’s guidelines which were updated in 2018.

The commission said GSG’s own board had acknowledged that he would not meet the registration criteria if he applied today.

GSG was registered as a charity in 1997 to support cancer patients and advance Gerson’s nutritional therapy.

The commission opened a case to review GSG in 2019, a year after concluding a consultation on the public interest offered by alternative therapy charities.

This consultation recommended that charities offering alternative cures and treatments should provide scientific evidence to back up their claims.

The regulator said that during its assessment it had “identified concerns” about the extent to which GSG was providing a public benefit, and that the charity’s trustees had also acknowledged that the evidence in support of Gerson’s nutritional therapy “would no longer meet the commission’s criteria for registration as a charity”. ”.

Helen Earner, director of regulatory services at the commission, said: “I welcome the decision of the directors of GSG to liquidate it, after acknowledging our concerns about its claims to cure people of life-threatening diseases.

“Charitable status is a special status that comes with clear expectations and responsibilities. The law clearly states that all organizations wishing to hold this status must demonstrate public utility.

“It is right that, following the intervention of the commission, the organization has been removed from the register of charities.”

The regulator said there were a number of other ongoing cases involving other alternative therapy charities and that it would take “firm and robust action” if necessary.

A GSG spokesperson said Third sector: “The administrators of the Gerson Support Group are extremely sad that the association has had to close.

“They know many thousands of people around the world who have been helped by Dr. Gerson’s therapy and personally know people who believe they would not be alive today without Dr. Gerson’s work.”

The commission decided to revise its guidelines on alternative therapy charities shortly after the Good Thinking Society, which says it “fights against irrationality and pseudoscience”, threatened to sue. justice for the position of the regulator.

Michael Marshall, Project Director of the Good Thinking Society, said: “It is extremely encouraging to see that the GSG will no longer be able to use its charitable status to promote a refuted and utterly ineffective therapy for vulnerable patients with cancer.

“As the Charity Commission has noted, however, this is far from the only example of an organization using its charitable status to encourage the public to trust unproven and potentially dangerous forms of treatment. It’s not even the only charity spreading false information about cancer.

Marshall described today’s news as “a good first step in protecting the public and the reputation of the charitable sector as a whole – but it’s only the first step.” We will follow with great interest the next steps”.