A medical perspective on the passing of Jess Ainscough.
As we reported here yesterday, 30 year old Jess Ainscough, known as the “Wellness Warrior” has died from cancer. After being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer aged 22, she chose to reject all forms of traditional medicine and embark upon an evangelical path of alternate treatments – none of which had any scientific evidence of success. She started a Wellness Warrior website, wrote books and became very vocally outspoken against many forms of traditional medicine including cancer treatment and even vaccination.
You can read about that here, including the devastating death of her mother only 14 months ago after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and similarly refused all traditional medicine. Of course, Jess and her mother had every right to choose how to treat their illnesses. Where this becomes more complex and troubling is the evangelism with which Jess took to her alternate treatment while projecting an image that was the picture of health. She amassed tens of thousands of followers, sold books and products and influenced many many people.
A young woman has died and that is a tragedy no matter how or why it happened. However by living her life as a crusader against traditional medicine and advocate for ‘natural’ cancer treatment, it’s impossible (and some would say irresponsible) to ignore the circumstances surrounding Jess Ainscough’s death.
After much discussion among the Mamamia team (some of whom knew Jess or had friends who knew her), we believe it’s possible to be sensitive and respectful while reporting some facts. Many Mamamia readers have asked questions about the reasons for Jess’s death and the progression of her cancer.
We asked surgical oncologist, Dr David Gorski (who writes about science-based medicine under the name Orac), to explain to us calmly and with sensitivity, the medical view of the radically alternate route Jess (and her mother) took and whether he believes this may have cost them heir lives.
For those who consider it is inappropriate to discuss such things so soon after her death, you may not want to read on.
However, Jess was hugely influential in her beliefs and had a massive following of impressionable and vulnerable people. Her death is a terrible tragedy but information is crucial for those who may be following her same path. We hope that explains our decision to publish this post.
Here is what Dr Gorski had to say:
Two months ago, I took note of a somewhat cryptic blog post by a young woman named Jess Ainscough. In Australia and much of the world, Ainscough was known as the Wellness Warrior. She was a young woman who developed an epithelioid sarcoma in 2008 and ended up choosing “natural healing” to treat her cancer.
Among the “natural healing” modalities touted by the Wellness Warrior included that “quackery of quackeries”, the Gerson protocol, complete with coffee enemas.