In 1978, self-proclaimed cancer “doctor” Milan Brych set up a clinic in the Cook Islands offering a treatment that Brych claimed could cure 80% of terminal patients. The Australian media helped promote Brych as a miracle-worker; Brych said the medical profession who opposed him were ignorant and jealous. Patients from Australia and New Zealand flew to Rarotonga to have the $12,000 treatment - at least one sold her house to pay for it. Most died within months and are buried in the Rarotonga cemetery, which became known locally as the “Brych Yard”. This research looks at this notable case of cancer quackery, what Brych claimed his treatment was, the patients who sought it, the media’s role in promoting it, and the Australian government and the medical profession’s responses. It raises issues of media ethics and regulation, terminal patients’ rights, and government duties.
Dr Laura Dawes is a Research Fellow at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at ANU. She specialises in the history of modern medicine, public health communication, and medicine and the law, with a focus on policy. Laura is the author of three books, “Childhood Obesity in America: Biography of an Epidemic”, “Fighting Fit: The Wartime Battle for Britain’s Health”, and “Deaf Education and Audiology at the University of Manchester”, as well as writing for magazines, radio, journals and TV documentaries.