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Australia Investigates 2005 Death of Penelope Dingle

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A story out of Australia that is both tragic and revealing has recently been making the rounds in the media, involving the death of Penelope Dingle, a woman who died of cancer in 2005.   Penelope had been married to Dr. Peter Dingle, a small time celebrity in Western Australia.

Peter Dingle is an Australian media personality and alternative medicine advocate. For those not familiar with him, his style is a little bit like that of Andrew Weil. Although Dingle does have a bonafied Ph.D., his books and lectures have been generally quite fringe and focus heavily on inflated claims of dangers from environmental toxins and modern society.   Some media outlets have stated that Dr. dingle is a “Toxicologist,” but he is not one in the medical sense.  His degree is in “environmental sciences,” and he describes his expertise as being “indoor air quality.”

Dingle is best known for his books, lecture tours and as a frequent guest on Australian daytime talk shows.  He is a regular on the breakfast television show “Wake Up! WA.” He has also endorsed a number of health products such as nutrition supplements and various “natural” remedies.

Recently it has come to light that Penelope Dingle’s death occurred after nearly two years of treatment with homeopathic remedies for rectal cancer that was first diagnosed in 2003.   When the cancer was first found it was likely that it could have been successfully treated by removing the cancerous tumor by surgery.  However, by the time Dingle finally began using mainstream medicine, it was far too late.

Now the local coroner is looking at whether her death is a criminal matter.

Via The Sydney Morning Herald:

The wife of a prominent Perth author and toxicologist would have died “in excruciating pain” after refusing to have surgery for bowel cancer, a coronial inquest has been told.

“It’s one of the most painful diseases you could possibly get, particularly when it gets to the advanced stages,” colourectal surgeon Professor Cameron Platell told the inquest on Monday.

“It’s like torturing someone.”

Dr Platell was giving evidence into the death of Penelope Dingle, who died of her disease in 2005 after opting for alternative therapies over more traditional surgery and chemotherapy.

Ms Dingle, 40, was the wife of Murdoch University Professor Peter Dingle, a leading toxicologist, author, self-described media personality and guest presenter on the ABC’s Can We Help? program.

The inquest into her death is being held to determine what role her homeopath, Francine Scrayen, and husband played in her treatment, and whether greater regulation of alternative medicines is needed.

In a letter to Dr Platell, Ms Dingle said she wanted to adopt a “holistic” approach to her treatment.

Clearly, Mrs. Dingle appears to have bought the entire thing hook line and sinker, but there has been some question about whether or not her Husband Dr. Dingle may have played a role in convincing her of going with the alternative approach to cancer treatment as well as why he didn’t attempt to persuade her to seek real medical treatment.

For his part, Dr. Dingle claims he had made an attempt to convince his wife to have the surgery, although he has since indicated some regret for not confronting the homeopath treating his wife or trying to get her to get the surgery.

Via Perth Now:

A PROMINENT Perth toxicologist has told the State Coroner he had several arguments with his cancer-stricken wife over having surgery that she ultimately refused.

At an inquest into Penelope Dingle’s 2005 death, Peter Dingle this afternoon told the Coroners Court that he tried to convince his wife to have surgery after she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in February 2003.

Mrs Dingle, who attempted to treat the cancer with homeopathy and natural remedies, died in August 2005 after suffering a rectal tumour.

When questioned by State Coroner Alastair Hope why he had not booked his wife in for surgery shortly after learning she had cancer, Dr Dingle said he had been unable to convince her and said he had no control over his wife.

Yet there is another side to this story that is especially disturbing. Several media outlets have reported that Dr. Dingle’s role in the death of his wife may have been more direct. In fact, it has been reported that he had agreed to pact to have his wife’s treatment limited entirely to “alternative” medicine, with the expectation that he would write a book on how he had cured his wife’s cancer using homeopathy and alternative means.

Via the Australian:

Giving evidence at Dingle’s inquest yesterday before West Australian Coroner Alastair Hope, her sister Toni Brown said seeing Dingle in 2003 was like watching “somebody being tortured”.

She said she had been told by one of the couple’s close friends that the Dingles had a pact with the homeopath treating Dingle, Francine Scrayen.

Under the pact, they agreed that only alternative medicine would be used and Dr Dingle would then write a book about curing his wife’s cancer.

Mrs Brown said that under the agreement, Dr Dingle would look after his wife’s vitamin and antioxidant treatment and Ms Scrayen would deal with homeopathy treatments and diet.

Mrs Brown said that in 2003 her sister was on a strict diet and lost a significant amount of weight but each time she expressed concern, Dingle and her husband told her the treatment was going well.

It’s certainly a dicey situation, but if Peter Dingle or Francine Scrayen in any way worked to convince Penelope Dingle that she did not need real medical treatment or pressured her not to have the surgery, then the may very well be criminally responsible for her death. A spouse can certainly have a great deal of influence, especially if they use their background or education to try to imply that they know what’s best. For a sick and dying woman, a strong-handed husband may have the power to keep her away from the help she needs.

Of course, what role Peter Dingle may have played is still unproven and he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. What is clear is the guilt of the ridiculous practice of homeopathy, which has taken many lives by denying or displacing real medical treatment.

If you have a loved one who has cancer that is treatable but will be deadly without the proper treatment, and if they choose homeopathy, recognize that unless you can talk some sense into them, they’re going to die a horrible and painful death. Argue with them, yell at them, if you have to, cry or beg if you have to, unless you’d rather be respectful and watch them die – because that is what will happen.


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