William Donald Kelley
Dr. Ralph Moss
Donald Kelley, DDS, MS, one of the most significant figures
in the history of alternative cancer treatments, passed away on
January 30, 2005, at the age of 79. The cause of death was congestive
heart failure. He had a long history of heart problems, with severe
rhythm disturbances, beginning in the 1960s.
Kelley was born on November 1, 1925 on an 80-acre "dirt farm"
in Winfield, Kansas. His father had died young of a heart attack
and, during the Great Depression, his mother raised three sons alone.
All three sons went to college, then graduate school, and became
Kelley was an unusual child. He once told me that when he was three
he had a vision of Jesus approaching him, as he was playing in a
sandpile. He took him up into his arms and instructed him to become
a medical missionary. Kelley later moved to Texas and studied at
Baylor University. Under the influence of his father-in-law, he
became a successful orthodontist, working 12 to 14 hours per day
putting braces on the teeth of the children of Grapevine, Texas.
He and his first wife adopted four children and lived the typical
suburban existence of the 1950s. In what little spare time he had
he restored antique cars. Always a determined worker, he practically
lived on candy bars and other junk food.
1960, his health began to deteriorate. The first thing he noticed
was diminishing eyesight. He also developed muscle cramps and chest
pains and went into a severe mental depression. The culmination
came in 1964, when he suffered acute gastric distention and was
hospitalized. A series of X rays showed the signs of advancing pancreatic
cancer, including lesions in his lungs, hip and liver. His surgeon
refused to operate, saying that Kelley had only four to eight weeks
to live. The doctors were so certain of their diagnosis that they
felt no need to take a biopsy of the tumor, an omission that was
to hound Kelley in later years.
was ready to give up, but his redoubtable frontier mother came from
Kansas to rescue him. She threw out the junk food and meat and instructed
him to eat only fresh and raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and
seeds. After several months, Kelley began to feel better. He was
even able to return to work. In a health food store he then discovered
the work of dietary pioneer, Max Gerson, who had written
the book, Cancer Therapy: Fifty Cases, which advocated a
six or seven months, however, Kelley stopped improving and developed
severe digestive problems, probably from the advancing cancer. He
therefore began taking pancreatic enzymes, at first simply to aid
his digestion. He eventually increased the dose to 50 enzyme capsules
per day. He then discovered the work of the Scottish embryologist,
John Beard, DSc, who early in the 20th century had postulated
that pancreatic enzymes were a natural control for cancer. He also
encountered the writings of Dr. Edward Howell, author of
Enzyme Nutrition, and an early apostle of the raw plant food
diet. In time, Kelley healed from his own disease and went on to
treat over 30,000 other patients.
Kelley discovered that while many people did well on this diet,
others did not. His second wife, Susie, was one of these. It turned
out that she needed rare red meat in order to control her severe
allergies. Thus was born Kelley's concept of the Metabolic Type,
in which different people, because of genetic heritage and environmental
factors, had different requirements for vegetarian or carnivorous
diets, raw and/or cooked. Kelley was influenced in his thinking
about meat by the work of Vilhjamur Steffanson, the Harvard-trained
explorer who, among other things, had shown that the Eskimo remained
cancer-free on a fatty red meat diet.
was the author of several books, including his self-help book, One
Answer to Cancer, first published in 1967, and an updated edition,
Cancer: Curing the Incurable Without Surgery, Chemotherapy or
Radiation (2001). His tests for cancer included the Kelley Enzyme
Test and the Kelley Index of Malignancy.
1970, Kelley was convicted of practicing medicine without a license,
and in 1976 the courts suspended his dental license for 5 years.
For a while in the late 1970s he worked in a clinic south of Tijuana.
Kelley's high point of fame came in 1980, when he treated the popular
US film actor Steve McQueen for advanced mesothelioma,
a form of chest and abdomen cancer generally caused by asbestos
exposure. McQueen died after undergoing surgery in 1980. Kelley
later claimed that McQueen had actually been cured, but then murdered
because he "was going to blow the lid off of the cancer racket."
In the public's mind, however, this failure dealt a blow to all
of Kelley's claims of success with cancer.
the 1970s, Kelley was reasonable in his statements about medical
orthodoxy and, although he appreciated the difficulties of changing
America's life style, looked forward to a fair and proper evaluation
of his method. As time progressed, however, he became increasingly
despondent, realizing that this would probably never happen.
also became increasingly paranoid. In the 1980s, he moved to rural
Washington state. His marriage to Susie had broken up, he lost control
of his once-thriving organization, and his mental and physical health
began to deteriorate as well. In the late 1980s, he and his then-companion,
a cardiologist named Carol Morrison, MD, whom he had allegedly cured
of breast cancer, moved to rural Pennsylvania. I visited them twice
in the small town of Saxonburg, north of Pittsburgh. I found this
couple a former successful orthodontist and board-certified
heart specialist living in a small rented bungalow on Water
Street. They were surviving on Dr. Kelley's monthly Social Security
was a shadow of his former self. Although he still did coffee enemas
every day, he had reverted to drinking huge bottles of Coke, to
which he ascribed health-giving properties. He and Dr. Morrison
seemed only tangentially interested in medicine. They were too busy
running their daisy-wheel printer day and night, churning out racist
and anti-Semitic tracts! It was hard to connect this bitter wreck
of a man with the vibrant individual of earlier decades.
Enter Dr. Gonzalez
was around that time that Nicholas J. Gonzalez, MD, a recent
graduate of Cornell Medical College, first came to prominence in
New York as a practitioner of Dr. Kelley's methods. Gonzalez was
always scrupulous in crediting Kelley for his contribution to his
own work. Yet the Kelley I met in 1990 seethed with anger at the
world, and particularly at those who had tried to help him, including
afterwards, Kelley even sued Gonzalez in a vituperative nuisance
suit. The suit was dismissed, with some unkind words from the judge.
After Morrison died, Kelley moved back to his mother's Kansas farm,
where his "strange eventful history" had begun almost
80 years before.
to sum up Kelley's contribution, Dr. Gonzalez wrote the following:
the years, just about anything that could ever be said about anybody,
good bad and indifferent, has been said about William Donald Kelley.
Regardless of how true or untrue such statements might be, my
wish is that he be remembered for what he truly was, a very brilliant
man who sacrificed all personal happiness for what he believed
to be the truth. Like so many other brilliant men he fit in nowhere
and generated controversy, adulation and scorn for much of his
adult life wherever he went and whatever he did.
world certainly treated him poorly, and too often in his later
years he responded in kind. His faults, like his strengths, are
legion and extraordinary and he lived an eccentric life, always
on the fringe; at one point during the early 1990s, I heard he
was scavenging food out of dumpsters. Despite all this, I have
always remained focused, and continue to remain so, on his unique
ability to see a truth no one else could see, and stick with it
regardless of the cost.
the day I first met him, in a chiropractor's office in Queens,
in July of 1981, after my second year of medical school, his one
goal, his one wish was to have his work properly evaluated and
tested, so that if it proved of value, it could be integrated
into the mainstream of orthodox medicine. That was to me, whatever
was to happen in our own relationship, and whatever he was to
say about me in recent years, always an honorable goal, one which
I took seriously and continue to work toward.
my estimation, Kelley, in his scientific thinking, was light years
ahead of the rest of us, both orthodox and alternative. He deserves
our respect for his accomplishments, for his trials and severe
tribulations, and our forgiveness for his foibles. Someday, I
believe his thoughts about the nature of cancer and human disease
will become the foundation of a new medicine, not merely a fringe
footnote, and the world will remember him at that time with well
deserved appreciation. For now, let's remember him kindly, with
gratitude for what he did and what he tried to do."
from Chet: Be sure to sign up for Dr. Moss's excellent newsletter
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