Penelope Dingle was an Australian woman. She was 45 years old when she died of colorectal cancer on 25th August 2005. Without wishing to sound callous, people do die of cancer. What makes her case remarkable is that she was not given any chance to survive.
At the time of her death, Penelope Dingle was being treated by homeopath Francine Scrayen. Scrayen forbade Penelope to take even painkillers for her extremely painful condition and was treating her with homeopathy alone. You can read Penelope’s own words for what she went through. Penelope at last, after all that intense suffering sought medical help, but by then it was far too late. The coroner’s report makes this clear:
Professor Platell described the pain associated with such an obstruction as extremely severe and arising from a combination of pain from the tumour causing blockage of the bowel, but also the tumour invading adjacent organs. He stated that the tumour was invading the cervix, the uterus, the left ovary and retroperitinal structures causing severe pain and in addition there was an “incredibly distended large bowel, almost to the point of splitting” which would cause even more severe pain.
Professor Platell explained that during the following procedure it was necessary for him to remove the cervix and uterus as well as the ovaries and the bowel from the pelvis as well as the fallopian tubes. The large intestine above the blockage was completely full with between 1½ and 2 kgs of faeces which had to be washed out prior to rejoining the large intestine.
Professor Platell was extremely disappointed as after the initial investigations and assessments it seemed that the deceased had a potentially curable rectal cancer which had been contained within the rectum and was then not invading adjacent structures. He believed that if the deceased had followed the initial treatment course she would have had a good chance of curing her disease.
It was not possible to remove all the cancer during the surgery and so the procedure was essentially a palliative operation, in that there was still residual tumour left in the pelvis.
So it is clear that Penelope’s reliance on homeopathy is directly responsible for her cancer to have gone from potentially curable to no longer easily treatable. What was Francine Scrayen’s part in this? This is what the coroner’s report has to say about her conduct:
Although Mrs Scrayen stated that she had completed a first aid course with St John Ambulance Service, she stated that it was a “very basic” course and that her understanding of medical issues was relatively poor.
Mrs Scrayen’s records reveal very regular contact with the deceased over 2001 and 2002 and then in 2003 extremely regular contacts. During 2003, for example, Mrs Scrayen’s notes, which the evidence indicated were not entirely comprehensive, reveal a total of 109 different days on which she had contact with the deceased up until mid October. In the months of July, August, September and October she had contact with the deceased almost every day.
In my view the number and extent of these contacts was grossly excessive for any legitimate professional interaction and provided evidence of an increasing unhealthy dependence of the deceased on Mrs Scrayen and her homeopathic remedies and treatments.
In evidence Mrs Scrayen stated that she was not purporting to treat the cancer to the exclusion of medical treatment and that there was no reason why medical treatment and homeopathic treatment could not be administered at the same time, except where the medical treatment might cause the homeopathic picture to become “blurred or antidoted”. This claim was entirely inconsistent with the account of the deceased as recorded extensively in her diaries and contained in her unsent letter [the one linked to above] addressed to Mrs Scrayen dated 29 November 2004.
Mrs Scrayen claimed that she did not purport to treat the deceased’s cancer and said that she had no knowledge that the deceased had a belief that she was advising that homeopathy could provide a cure for cancer.
I do not accept this claim by Mrs Scrayen, whom I did not generally regard to be a witness of truth.
It is clear from the evidence of many witnesses at the inquest some of which is detailed in these reasons that the deceased did believe that she was being treated by homeopathy for her cancer and repeatedly said so. In my view Mrs Scrayen could not have been in any doubt as to that issue, particularly in the context of their multiple interactions in relation to her treatment. In addition the fact that the deceased was telling people at the time that she was relying on homeopathy to cure her was recorded in notes written at the time such as the Silver Chain Nurse entries referred to earlier.
So there you have it. Scrayen was doing her level best to deny that she had been treating Penelope’s cancer, but her denial is not believable.
And what was the verdict?
Apart from receiving limited and inadequate pain relief the deceased did not receive any medical treatment from a mainstream medical practitioner over the latter part of this period and relied on the treatments provided by Mrs Scrayen. Mrs Scrayen’s influence on the deceased played a major part in her decision making which contributed to the loss. Dr Dingle, her partner, insofar as he supported and assisted with Mrs Scrayen’s treatments and kept the deceased away from outside influences, contributed to that loss of a chance of survival. Ultimately, however, the decisions were those of the deceased, sadly those decisions were to a large extent based on misinformation.
During the period in 2003 while the deceased was relying on the treatment provided by Mrs Scrayen, not only did she lose whatever chances of life she had, she suffered extreme and unnecessary pain. Evidence at the inquest was to the effect that had surgery been performed earlier much of that gross pain would have been avoided.
This situation was made even worse by the fact that Mrs Scrayen’s advice to the deceased was that she should avoid or take a minimum of pain reducing medications. The deceased accepted this advice and only reluctantly used minimal analgesia.
I find that the death arose by way of natural causes but in the circumstances described above.
This is why what happened to Penelope Dingle matters: she relied on people who had either no or very limited medical training, no diagnostic ability or training and an unfounded belief in the treatments they used on her. As the coroner said, she was misinformed by the very people she trusted and on whose advice she relied on.
There are lots of people like these around: they write books, they have slick websites where they sell their treatments, they appear on podcasts and DVDs or YouTube clips. Don’t rely on their advice alone, ever. If someone claims they can cure cancer, AIDS or any other life-threatening condition with a secret or “alternative” treatment, don’t believe their claims. Always ask for a qualified medical opinion. There is no conspiracy out there to suppress cancer cures, that is just marketing hype by the snake oil salesmen. And every life lost to their worthless treatments is a life too many.
Penelope’s sister is now suing Francine Scrayen.
Scrayen, on her part, is also involved with law, though in her case she’s using lawyers to silence a blogger. The sheer gall of that woman is unbelievable! Her part in the death of Penelope Dingle is undeniable – though she certainly tries to deny it – and now she’s concerned about her reputation. What reputation can she have left after the coroner’s report is beyond me.
Here’s my personal challenge to you, Ms Scrayen. Please show where anything I’ve written in my blogpost about the case of Penelope Dingle is in any way incorrect and does not reflect the real events. Please have your lawyer to check it over to see if you have a case.