Robert Gorter loses lawsuit against SKEPP



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The Court of First Instance in Antwerp has dismissed the damages claim filed by Robert Gorter, the practitioner of controversial methods of cancer treatment, against the non-profit organization SKEPP and two of its members, doctors Wim Betz and Luc Bonneux.

The Dutch doctor Robert Gorter runs a “cancer clinic” in Cologne where he treats cancer patients with a mishmash of alternative therapies, such as homeopathy, vitamin cures, mistletoe extract, as well as with treatments that resemble cutting-edge experimental technology, such as heat therapy and dendritic cells. He runs an aggressive advertisement campaign and promises spectacular recoveries. An association of cancer patients asked for advice. In an article on the SKEPP website, Betz and Bonneux claim that these treatments are not only absurd but they are also potentially dangerous and very expensive, running into tens of thousands of Euros. His advertisement is very misleading.

Gorter is a general practitioner but refers to himself as a professor and cancer specialist (oncologist). A German court recently forbade him to call himself professor.

The article calls the clinic in Cologne a clear example of quackery and strongly advises people against it.

Gorter appealed to the court because he claims to have suffered damages on account of that publication. He demanded that SKEPP remove the article from its website. Furthermore, he demanded 25,000 Euros in damages from both authors and from the association.

The court has now dismissed his claims, citing the right to the freedom of speech (ruling of 6/2/2009). According to the judges, the article in question is “a contribution by two doctors who can appeal to a degree of notoriety in the medical world. They can appeal to their research expertise and to the sound basis of their comments and criticism.” It thus does not have to do with “ill-considered ideas” and Gorter was unable to show that the only intention was to wrongfully harm him. The court did not rule on Gorter’s cancer treatment, but remarked: “A doctor in the medical world who goes down the path of experimental therapies exposes himself to criticism of these therapies and his own actions.” According to the magistrates, by additionally conducting an advertising campaign, Gorter opened himself up to criticism. His claim was rejected and he has to reimburse us for defence expenses.

SKEPP is obviously pleased that a court expressly recognized the right to free speech when well-founded criticism is provided about controversial therapies. That may sound obvious in a free country, and yet in the Netherlands, the Association against Quackery was previously found guilty when it named another controversial therapist a “quack”. Betz and Bonneux did not hesitate to use this term, but explained clearly what they meant by it: “the habitual sale or recommendation of treatments or products the effect of which is not proven.”

SKEPP only offers criticism of controversial practices and theories if it is based upon serious research and expertise. In this case, the court recognized that it was. This is step forward in the fight against nonsense and charlatanism.

The article in question (in dutch language) – which was never removed from the website – can be found at:

Overview and Development (in dutch language), click HERE

Wim Betz can be contacted at willem.betz AT or tel. +32 3 666 5261

Latest News: Gorter has appealed the verdict. To be continued

Wim Betz
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