The Quackometer, a blog commenting on pseudoscience, reported this week on such a blatantly bad story in the London-based Daily Mail, that it almost doesn’t seem real: “Can this man cure cancer with his bare hands?” the paper asks of “psychic healer” Adrian Pengelly in its headline.
The answer should be a decided “No he cannot,” according to scientific evidence. Anecdotes from Pengelly’s clients who feel they have been healed are just that—anecdotes. There is no scientific evidence–as far as stinkyjournalism can tell—that Pengelly (or any other “psychic”) can cure cancer. Yet, the Daily Mail story fails to take the so-called healer to task on his dangerous claims (including advice against chemotherapy for a cancer sufferer). This puts their readers at grave risk that they might be misinformed and make dangerous or deadly health decisions.
The story reads as a classic puff piece. Mail reporter Rebecca Hardy highlights Pengelly’s generosity:
- “Adrian claims to have helped hundreds of cancer sufferers. He charges £30 a session and sees up to 120 clients a week, half of whom, he says, are gratis.”
Hardy lets unsubstantiated statements from and about Pengelly dominate her article (the bold emphasis is ours):
- “… claiming him to be a ‘dangerous man’ for saying he was able to cure up to 65 per cent of cancer sufferers who came to him. Adrian, 43, from Leominster, in Herefordshire, who has been treating horses as well as people for 17 years, doesn’t seem particularly dangerous. In fact, he’s a rather gentle man who maintains: “All I do is tuck myself away and try to help people.”
- “Some said I had a gift from God. But I just wanted to understand the science. I thought: What is there? There’s only energy – electricity in different forms – and it floats. I can feel energy come with one hand and draw it with another.”
- “…The proof is in thousands of people saying they were healed.’ He said: ‘That’s not proof.’ I said: ‘I’m a healer I’m supposed to make people well.’ He said: ‘That’s still not proof.’ ‘Well, I’m sorry. For me the proof of the pudding is people recover when they come and see me. I don’t care about scientific evidence.”
- “A few months later I was with a friend who had a migraine. I said to her jokingly: This bloke said I can heal. Let’s see what I can do.’ I put my hands on her head, my hands were red hot and the headache was gone. She was amazed. Then, my friend’s brother-in-law came to see me. He was a head of PE. His back was in agony. He could barely walk. I asked him to lie down and could see a black banana-shaped scar floating above him. He told me he’d torn a muscle ten years earlier. I put my hands on his back. My hands felt burning hot and this hand buzzed.” Adrian holds up his left hand. “It was a strange feeling. When he stood up his back was better.”
In reality, Pengelly advised an undercover reporter from the BBC that his treatments would work better on her if she did not undergo chemotherapy for cancer. That is a dangerous and potentially deadly thing to tell someone, as the BBC article and videos reveal.
There are laws preventing people from making false medical claims, laws that Pengelly is potentially guilty of breaking by claiming a 60-65% success rate for treating cancer in the BBC videos. [The BBC report alleges that Pengelly also made those claims on his website which seems to have been changed since the report.]
Perhaps Pengelly’s motives, if not his actions, are sincere, as the Mail argues. But he made statements that could had deadly consequences for gullible people with serious health issues. And a person giving deadly advice must not be lauded in the press, however sincere they might be.