His sister Louise said the “quiet Beatle” hoped a spiritual approach would defeat the illness.
But he may have been doomed to an early grave by a genetic disorder that also killed his mother and brother, a new documentary says.
The star, who died from lung and brain cancer in 2001 aged 58, inherited a condition known as germline mutation that may have afflicted his family for generations. It made him more susceptible to cancer and was exacerbated by decades of drug and alcohol abuse and chain-smoking, according to US forensic pathologist Dr Michael Hunter.
His probe into Harrison’s medical history and his DNA “curse” is covered in the latest Autopsy: The Last Hours Of….. broadcast tonight on America’s Reelz channel and later this year in the UK.
He said it was passed through the maternal side of the Beatle’s Liverpool family, triggering the death of his mother Louise from a brain tumour at the age of 59 in 1970.
Peter, the younger of Harrison’s two brothers, also died from cancer aged 66 in 2007. In the near future, scientists working in genetic technology hope to be able to “edit” rogue cells and correct the condition.
Dr Hunter said: “Germline mutation lowers the resistance to cancer-causing toxins like those in alcohol and tobacco.” Before his death, Harrison had been working on a remastered 30th anniversary issue of his triple album All Things Must Pass, his first solo recording following the break up of the Fab Four.
Ironically, his determination to complete the studio sessions, coupled with his spirituality and devotion to Hinduism and Indian mysticism, may have accelerated his death on November 29, 2001. “He refused treatment at first,” his sister, also named Louise, reveals in tonight’s programme. “He believed he could cure himself through meditation.”
Dr Hunter concluded: “George’s lifestyle of drinking and smoking were the triggers for a genetic disease.”