Disgraced “wellness” blogger Belle Gibson has been found guilty of misleading consumers with her fake cancer story.
The 25-year-old Gibson shot to fame in 2009 when she claimed that she has beaten malignant brain cancer using whole foods and alternative therapies for four years. Following her claim, her blog, The Whole Pantry, was able to build a large following. She later launched an app and cookbook of the same name in mid-2013, which earned her $420,000 over a two-year period.
Belle Gibson then claimed that she would donate her $300,000 of her earnings to charity. But when the aforementioned charity organizations, such as the Asylum Seeker Resource Center, claimed that they haven’t received any donations from Miss Gibson, some inconsistencies on her cancer story started to become apparent.
In 2009, Gibson claimed she had been diagnosed with cancer by an immunologist and neurologist named Mark Jones. However, it was later confirmed that no records of Jones exist.
“I believed I was having radiotherapy. When he gave me medication, I was told that it was oral chemotherapy. I believed he was a real doctor,” she said.
When pressed to show medical records proving her cancer diagnosis, Gibson refused.
In May, 2015, amid mounting pressure against her over her cancer story, Belle Gibson admitted in an exclusive interview with the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine that her cancer diagnosis was fake.
“No, none if it’s true,” she responded when asked if she has ever had cancer.
“I don’t want forgiveness,” she told The Weekly. “I just think [speaking out] was the responsible thing to do. Above anything, I would like people to say, ‘Okay, she’s human.’”
The interview didn’t reveal the explanations behind her deception as Gibson didn’t divulge much information on why she lied to the public, aside from referring to a “troubled” childhood.
Gibson also told Australian Women’s Weekly that she was forced to care for her mother, whom she said suffered multiple sclerosis when she was just 5-years-old.
Her mother since claimed the accusations as “rubbish,” adding that she had “practically worked myself into an early grave to give that girl everything she wanted in life.”
When pressed with more questions, Gibson was forced to justify her behavior.
“If I don’t have an answer, then I will sort of theorize it myself and come up with one. I think that’s an easy thing to often revert to if you don’t know what the answer is,” she said.
Women’s Weekly then speculated that Belle Gibson might be suffering from a psychological condition called factitious disorder, in which a person deliberately seeks attention by faking an illness, as previously reported by BBC.
Two years ago, Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) launched an investigation into the allegations made against Gibson. In June, 2016, CAV brought the civil case against her and her company, Inkerman Nominees.
Federal Court of Australia judge Debbie Mortimer has upheld “most but not all” of the allegations made against Gibson, following an investigation proving that the 25-year-old engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct.
Mortimer said, however, that CAV’s evidence against Gibson hasn’t convinced her that the Australian blogger was acting unconscionably.
The judge said on Wednesday that the disgraced “wellness” blogger may have “genuinely” believed her claims.
“Not all human beings are rational and reasonable all of the time,” Debbie Mortimer said.
“It seems to me that, at least in some respects, it might be open to find that Gibson suffered from a series of delusions about her health condition.”
Mortimer said that Belle Gibson is facing up to $220,000 in fines, and her company could be fined $1.1 million, according to 9 News. Penalties will be handed down at a later date, said Mortimer.
Belle Gibson hasn’t showed up in court for the ruling and had not attended previous hearings.
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