GP fined for false cancer cure

A Perth GP has been fined $25,000 and ordered to make cancer patients sign a consent form after he was found to have falsely claimed to cure cancer by alternative remedies such as vitamin C and green tea extracts.

The Medical Board of Australia has been investigating Dr William Barnes since a 2009 complaint by a cancer survivor, who alleged the doctor made false claims promoting "non-toxic" alternative cancer treatments, including mineral replacement and psycho-spiritual healing.

Dr Barnes, who practises in Cannington, was one of two WA doctors criticised by State Coroner Alastair Hope in his inquiry into the death of cancer patient Penelope Dingle in 2005.

Mr Hope found Dr Barnes had recommended Mrs Dingle use intravenous vitamin C and Carnivora, an extract from the Venus flytrap plant.

The 2009 complaint to the Medical Board included concerns from cancer experts, including University of Tasmania oncologist Ray Lowenthal who wrote he was "greatly disturbed by Dr Barnes' website" and found his claims about cancer treatment were "outrageous and preposterous".

"His dangerous claims are likely to mislead cancer patients and run the risk of persuading some patients to forgo proven, effective treatments for futile and potentially dangerous therapies," Dr Lowenthal said in the complaint.

In the Medical Board's ruling on October 15, it said that Dr Barnes admitted he falsely represented to patients and members of the public that therapies including green tea polyphenols, genistein from soybeans and curcumin from the spice turmeric could cure cancer.

It reprimanded him for improper conduct and ordered him to pay $25,000 plus the board's costs. For the next five years Dr Barnes must get any patient diagnosed with cancer to sign a document acknowledging that there is no evidence the natural therapies or nutritional advice he offers can slow or cure cancer.

The patient consent also states Dr Barnes supports treatments such as chemotherapy recommended by oncologists and that patients should not delay or stop conventional cancer treatment while receiving advice from him.