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Crowdfunding cancer clinic offers hope at high price; Families' 'short-term fix' warning.

Byline: MARTIN BAGOT Health and Science Correspondent and JOHN KELLY

BEREAVED families who handed life savings to a private clinic, in hope of a cure for loved ones with terminal cancer, say they wish they had not.

The Mirror spoke to three families who used the Hallwang clinic in Germany, which came to public attention in 2016 when former Emmerdale actress Leah Bracknell revealed she was attending for her terminal lung cancer.

The following year stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio helped raise PS300,000 to send Gemma Nuttall, 27.

The mum, whose initial ovarian cancer later spread to her brain and lungs, appeared on This Morning saying the clinic had saved her life after scans suggested the cancer was clear.

These videos entitled "Kate Winslet Saved My Life" still feature on the clinic's website even though she died in October.

Gemma's mum Helen Sproates and dad Graham sold their home to fund treatment. Helen, 57, of Haslingden, Lancs, said: "If Kate Winslet had not come along we would have ended up destitute. We were desperate, I'd have given everything to help Gemma. "Hallwang was like going to a very expensive restaurant with a menu where you ticked off things you could afford while being advised by a waiter.

"They parade success stories, never failures. People aren't being offered a cure. Don't put yourself on the street for a short-term fix."

Our joint investigation with the Good Thinking Society shows UK crowdfunding appeals to attend the clinic raised PS4.5million in two-and-a-half years.

The clinic said it did not receive all that money, although it does not include remortgaging, loans or personal savings.

The Hallwang, situated in the Black Forest in the south, offers chemotherapy after the NHS decides there is no point. It also gave immunotherapy treatments before they were available on the NHS. These help the body's immune system recognise and attack cancer.

Some experts say the debt, travel and treatments may blight a patient's final months.

Michael Marshall, director of the Good Thinking Society, said: "Appeals are often covered as positive stories - a patient finally gets access to 'life-saving' medicine. This persuades others to follow."

There were 188 fundraising appeals by Britons from January 2016 to June 2018.

The Hallwang costs PS4,725 for a single room for a week before treatments.

Expert Prof Karol Sikora said a "high cost mix of orthodox and pseudo-science provides hope when the NHS does not".

But the Hallwang said the alternative therapies it offers are a "tiny part" of its work and it makes clear to patients the "lack of scientific evidence". A spokesman said: "Our medical team consists of board-certified oncologists. In Germany, we can provide a Bracknell more comprehensive and individualised treatment approach than in the UK.

"Cancer, especially in progressive metastatic disease, is often not curable. In most cases the best we can achieve is a better quality of life and a life extension.

Winslet "We never guarantee a cure and are honest about prognosis. Patients, even though they hope for a cure, understand even with the most advanced treatments they may only gain time and are grateful for every month and year."

TV star Leah said last month a fall had forced her to "slow down" her lifestyle.

martin.bagot@mirror.co.uk @MartinBagot

They parade the successes but never the failures. People are not being offered a cure HELEN SPROATES MUM OF HALLWANG PATIENT GEMMA

CAPTION(S):

CLINIC The Hallwang in Germany

TRAGIC ENDING Gemma was a poster girl for the clinic

THIS MORNING Gemma and Helen in February 2018

HELP Leah Bracknell

STAR Kate Winslet
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Mar 7, 2019
Words:601
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