Any message or image with lots of emoticons, that begins or ends with “Forward to all your friends” is, as a rule, widely shared.
Especially if the message is about cancer, or other illnesses. The problem, however, is that hardly anyone bothers to check the authenticity of what they’re sharing.
Recently a message, claiming to have been released by Dr VP Gangadharan, the renowned oncologist in Kerala, went viral.
The message in Malayalam even had a picture of Dr Gangadharan, and was shared in non-Malayali family and friends’ groups as well. It said:
“Dr PV Gangadharan, who is fondly referred to as ‘Saint with a Stethoscope’ says:
(1) Avoid sugar. Cancer does not spread without sugar. Cancer will die on its own without sugar.
(2) Take a full lime and squeeze it into lukewarm water. Take this for one to three months before breakfast. Maryland college of medicine says this is 1000 times more effective than chemotherapy.
(3) Take three spoons of organic or virgin coconut oil early morning and in the night to keep cancer at bay.
Make one of these choices, but be sure to avoid sugar. I have been trying to spread this message for the last two years. Be sure to forward this important message. Avoid cancer.”
The reputation of Dr Gangadharan, a dedicated professional who is popular in the state, gave widespread acceptance to the message. A columnist in a Malayalam daily as well, Gangadharan’s words are well received in the state for the credibility he has earned over the years.
Looks like the message even reacher Dr Gangadharan, who, of course, had nothing to do with it! With the wide acceptance the message received Dr Gangadharan lodged a complaint with the Kochi City Commissioner on January 27.
Speaking to TNM, Dr Gangadharan made it clear that he has not sent out any advisory of the sort, and stressed that such messages can in fact be very harmful for patients and should not be forwarded without verification.
“It’s really sad that such messages are being spread. They have a huge influence on patients and their relatives, and it’s possible that many would fall prey to such wrong messages. They take these messages seriously, and the really sad fact is that some patients even stop medication, believing that there are alternative ways to cure the disease. We cannot blame them for trying to find hope in anything they see,” Dr Gangadharan said.
“I don’t know who is behind producing and propagating such messages,” he said.
“People may be doing this for fun, or because of their ignorance. I don’t know the intention. What they don’t realise is the impact of their deed,” he added.
Dr Gangadharan’s plea is that patients should call up the doctors they consult and clear their doubts when they get such messages, before following the directions in these forwards.
“We, doctors, have no difficulty in clearing the doubts of the patients. I am appealing to the patients and their relatives: Please don’t fall for such fake messages,” he said.
Dr Gangadharan has also made the same appeal in his column, ‘Sneha Ganga’, in Mathrubhumi. In an interview to the paper, he said. "A lot people had called me after reading the message, asking if can they can stop their medicines and follow the directions in the message. Some of them are not even my patients. Even a guy whose son has brain tumour called up and asked if he can follow the instructions.”