Dr Josef Maria Issels

Dr. Josef Maria Issels

Dr. Josef Maria Issels, a resident of Rancho Santa Fe, California, died suddenly Wednesday, February 11, of influenza-caused pneumonia, at the age of ninety. Born November 21, 1907, in Mönchen-Gladbach, Germany, he received his medical doctorate from the University of Würzburg in 1932. He first achieved international recognition in 1936 when, against the captain's orders, he performed an emergency abdominal surgery in the poorly equipped operating room of an ocean liner under sail in rough seas. His patient, an English woman, recovered, and newspaper headlines told of his heroism. His single-minded attitude led him into conflict with the Nazi party when he petitioned to resign in opposition to Nazi insistence that he stop treating Jews. He continued to treat his Jewish patients, and his reward was to be drafted and sent, as a doctor, to the Russian front. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war until the end of 1945.

Dr. Issels is regarded as the Father of Integrative Cancer Medicine because of his bold incorporation of alternative and complementary cancer therapies into standard management decades before their current popularity. In 1951, he opened the Ringberg-Klinik in RottachEgern, Germany, the first hospital in Europe to offer treatment to cancer patients who had been rejected by other doctors.

Dr. Issels was a controversial figure whose powerful opponents had him briefly jailed by falsely accusing him of fraud and manslaughter. The trial -- called by the German media "the cancer trial of the century" -- stretched from 1960 to 1964, only to conclude in complete acquittal and dismissal of all counts. By 1965, a poll by the Demographic Institute of Allensbach found that Dr. Issels was known by more Germans than the current Chancellor of the Federal Republic. Indeed, his popularity continues today with descriptions of his work in scores of scholarly books, such as Choices in Healing, MIT Press, by Michael Lerner, and the recent NYU Press publication by David Hess, Can Bacteria Cause Cancer? -Alternative Medicine Meets Big Science.

Dr. Issels was the subject of a 1970 British Broadcasting Corporation documentary entitled "Go and Climb a Mountain." The BBC filmed German Army helicopters delivering terminally ill cancer patients for treatment by Dr. Issels with his German Federal Governmentrecognized protocols. BBC researchers concluded that the results of two independent epidemiological chart reviews had confirmed the cure of many cases of advanced cancer.

One of those epidemiologists was Professor John Anderson, MD, Chairman of the Department of Medicine, King's College Hospital Medical School, University of London. In 1969, Anderson wrote, "He has contributed to our understanding of the whole-person approach to cancer therapy and the problems involved in controlling a serious whole-body disease. His patients have come from many countries and his extensive records have enabled him to produce data about his complete and long term remissions in seriously ill cancer patients who had been rejected by other doctors."

In 1972, Dr. Issels' More Cures for Cancer was published by Heifer Verlag. In 1975, British medical publisher, Hodder and Stoughton, released Dr. Issels' Cancer: A Second Opinion. Dr. Issels was the subject of biographer Gordon Thomas' Issels -- The Biography of a Doctor, published by Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1975. Dr. Issels treated patients in Germany for more than 40 years, overcoming criticism to become a much sought after speaker at international medical conferences, universities, including Oxford and McGill, and prestigious institutions such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

In 1981, he was appointed to the German Federal Government's Cancer Commission, a post he held for nearly seven years. At that time, Professor Anderson wrote, "I have known Dr. Issels for 12 years and been involved in an assessment of him both as a person and as a clinician. His reputation is international as well as national and he is known for this clinical work and research, not only in Europe, but in North and South America. His new ideas have aroused challenge and change and there is no doubt his approaches have forced others to reconsider theirs. He has had an impact internationally in the cancer field. He has as I know, treated over 10,000 patients with proven cancer. His long term remission rate is still significantly greater than that of other physicians working in this field, and better than the standard cancer registry data."

After retiring to the United States, Dr. Issels continued to lecture extensively and to train physicians in the interdisciplinary management he developed. Together with his wife, Ilse Marie, he established the Issels Foundation to further his medical accomplishments through education and research. He moved to California in 1996 to become co-principal investigator and senior medical consultant to the Issels/CHIPSA/GRO Collaboration. Dr. Issels maintained a schedule that would have been difficult for a younger man. Up until his unexpected illness, he continued his writing and public speaking, and spent two days every week teaching physicians of the medical practice of the Centro Hospitalario Internacional Pacifico, SA, of Playas de Tijuana.

Dr. Issels' memberships in professional and government medical associations included the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the German Cancer Society, the Bavarian Cancer Society, the Royal Medical Society of Scotland, the Academia Teatina of Florence, Italy, and the German Federal Government's "Gesamtprogramm zur Krebsbekämpfung" (Commission for the Fight Against Cancer).

Dr. Issels is survived by his widow, Ilse Marie, sons Rolf, Hellmut, and Christian, daughter Ruthild, and six grandchildren. Services were held on February 18 at the El Camino Mortuary, 5600 Carroll Canyon Road, San Diego, California 92121. Donations may be sent to the Issels Foundation, P.O. Box 676047, Rancho Santa Fe, California 92067, telephone 888374-7757.

Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients.


By Christeene Hildenbrand and Gar Hildenbrand

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