Apparently unaware or dismissive of the consequences, there is an epidemic of sorts of people faking serious illness and advertising it on the internet. The Guardian reviews the case of wannabe cancer victim Belle Gibson and beyond:
How would you fake cancer? Shave your head? Pluck your eyebrows? Install a chemo port into your neck? These days you don’t need to. Belle Gibson’s story is a masterclass on faking cancer in the modern age. She fooled Apple, Cosmopolitan, Elle and Penguin. She fooled the hundreds of thousands who bought her app, read her blog and believed that her story could be their story.
Diagnosed with a brain tumour aged 20, Gibson had four months to live. She blogged her journey of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, treatments she shunned after eight weeks. Instead, she cut gluten and dairy and turned to oxygen therapy, craniosacral treatments and colonic irrigation. Against all odds, she made it. Her followers were inspired. If Belle could make it, maybe they could too.
Gibson launched The Whole Pantry app in 2013, filled with healthy living tips and recipes. She promised a third of proceeds from the 300,000 downloads ($3.79 per download) to charity. Elle named her “The Most Inspiring Woman You’ve Met This Year”, Cosmopolitan awarded her a “Fun, Fearless Female award” and Penguin published her cookbook. Apple pre-installed her app on Apple Watch and flew her to its Silicon Valley launch.
Then cancer re-emerged, and Gibson announced on Instagram: “It hurts me to find space tonight to let you all know with love and strength that I’ve been diagnosed with a third and forth [sic] cancer. One is secondary and the other is primary. I have cancer in my blood, spleen, brain, uterus, and liver. I am hurting.”
Last week, Gibson admitted it was all a lie. “No. None of it’s true. I am still jumping between what I think I know and what is reality. I have lived it and I’m not really there yet.”
She is now being investigated over the disappearance of $300,000 of promised charity donations. Months earlier, she spoke of her four-year-old son and the short time they had left together: “[Oliver] sees me on days that I can’t get out of bed. The only thing that breaks me is [the idea of] not being able to see Oli grow. He’s so incredible I just want to squish him all day forever. I don’t want those moments to end. I’m just going to miss him.”
The diagnosis of Münchausen syndrome has dominated analysis of Gibson’s case. It comes under the rubric of a wider term, factitious disorder: the intentional production (feigning) of disease in order to assume the role of a sick person…