Almost manslaughter?

August 27th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Talia Shadwell at Stuff reports:

By the time Yvonne Maine saw a surgeon about the yawning wound on her head, it had become so big her brain was exposed.

The cancerous lesion had grown from 2 centimetres to 20cm during 16 months of treatment by an unqualified iridologist, who discouraged the Feilding grandmother from visiting a doctor, a Human Rights Tribunal hearing was told yesterday. …

Te Horo iridologist is appearing before the tribunal in a case brought by the Human Rights Commission. It says Mrs Nelson, in her 70s, breached the code of human rights in failing, as a healthcare provider, to give Mrs Maine proper care.

Mrs Maine, a retired early childhood worker, had long styled her hair to cover up a lump that had been diagnosed by a GP about 40 years ago as a harmless cyst.

Growing irritation from the lump led her to seek out Mrs Nelson.

Over 16 months, the iridologist, who is not a registered natural health practitioner and has no qualifications, “scraped and picked” at the wound, but discouraged her patient from visiting a doctor, Mrs Maine’s daughter, Carla Taylor, who was present at most of the treatments, claimed.

Mrs Nelson applied herbal poultices, oils and colloidal silver to the growing lesion. She also tried “emotional freedom tapping” – patting the patient’s forehead and repeating positive affirmations, the court heard.

By the time her family persuaded Mrs Maine to visit hospital in 2009, the lesion was an infected wound so deep her brain could be seen pulsating, Prof Tan said.

How much did the iridologist get paid to apply what is basically witch doctorery? An earlier hearing heard:

A pharmacist questioned the amount of painkillers she was taking and suggested she see a doctor.

But she was warned against this by Mrs Nelson, who told her “it wasn’t cancer and they probably wouldn’t treat it now” and that she would  “get a bug or swine flu” if she went to hospital.

Pleased to see the Human Rights Commission take this case. It’s atrocious and there should be consequences for pressuring someone to not seek medical help, ripping them off, and lying with the end result being a preventable death.

Some people say we should have corporate manslaughter. Well what about manslaughter in this case, as the behaviour appears to be completely negligent and lacking in good faith.

 

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41 Responses to “Almost manslaughter?”

  1. TheContrarian (1,085 comments) says:

    This certainly highlights the danger of believing these snake oil salesmen. On a side note my wife recently overheard a conversation where a yoga teacher was telling a new mother after class that vaccines are unnecessary and can cause autism so she should be wary. That is dangerous advice.

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  2. David Garrett (7,271 comments) says:

    What can you say about this kind of tragedy? My immediate thought is what the hell was the daughter thinking? If her mother had enough trust in her to have her accompany her to “treatments” by this hellish quack, surely she could have influenced her to go an see a doctor?

    Contrarian: It is indeed scary how middle class dipshits like this yoga teacher can cause havoc with their uninformed advice…

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  3. ArranH (16 comments) says:

    As a comedian said, do you know what they call alternative medicine that works? Medicine. These quacks should be charged for intentional GBH if the patient doesn’t die, and manslaughter if they do.

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  4. kowtow (8,439 comments) says:

    Presumably the patient has a degree of education? By golly there appears to be very little personal responsibility in society anymore and constant recourse to state agencies for remedy.

    We’re employing the HRC to enforce common sense. No wonder we’re broke.

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  5. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    It is the price we pay for allowing terms like ‘alternative medicine’ to be applied to these quacks. Too many people believe it actually is some kind of valid alternative.

    There are always those who would rather believe rubbish like having their foreheads tapped than going to a doctor and getting proper treatment.

    The constant undermining of the medical profession by the media doesn’t help either – or sensationalist scare stories about vaccines etc.

    Perhaps we need some kind of warning notice they must display like “This treatment may endanger your health”.

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  6. TheContrarian (1,085 comments) says:

    I’m waiting for UgyTruth to show up and tell us not to believe the MSM, Iridology works and that it can diagnose and cure you from fluoride poisoning.

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  7. David Garrett (7,271 comments) says:

    I’m pretty sure – I don’t practise in criminal law – We dont actually have “manslaughter by negligence” as an offence in NZ…we should….

    kowtow: I was reluctant to put it quite as baldly as you have…but you are right…it is very difficult to protect the stupid from themselves…

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  8. Griff (7,683 comments) says:

    Wingnuts of any persuasion need to be hunted down and publicly ridiculed.
    Science brought us out of the dark ages.
    Some seek to return is with their wingnut denial of science.

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  9. wreck1080 (3,905 comments) says:

    Yes, lets trust voodoo and witchcraft medicine over scientifically based medicine!!

    Reminds me of that stupid kiwi woman in the UK who kidnapped her own cancer afflicted son to avoid chemotherapy — subsequently, the son was located , given chemotherapy and life saved. The woman then says that it was not good because chemotherapy made her son sad.

    Not saying science based medicine is always going to work but it is the best option in an imperfect world.

    Shades of the anti-fluoridation brigade too.

    I bet there is a link between low IQ and belief in alternative medicines.

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  10. panda (13 comments) says:

    Not almost David …… This tragic story is the perfect answer to those misguided believers who ask what is the harm in alternative or complementary medicine ?

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  11. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    I have no problem with people seeking alternative forms PROVIDING they are doing so in conjunction with medical advice and treatment.

    I am sure that once the ‘there is nothing more that medicine can do for you’ verdict has been given, any attempts to find something else that might help is fine – however this case is appalling, not only was the woman not trained or qualified to practice, her actions may very well have increased the speed at which the cancer progressed.

    Should that be the case, then in my opinion it amounts to manslaughter, although I am sure the law would not see it that way?

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  12. Lucia Maria (2,423 comments) says:

    Both the women involved are negligent – the ideologist and the woman with the lesion. To blame one and not the other is unjust.

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  13. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Don’t forget about the colour therapy nuts. As well as taking money from people likely to be in a forlorn physical condition, they are actually selling colour therapy equipment to potential “therapists”.

    This is from one operator’s web page:

    Send either a personal or bankers draft cheque for the sum of:-
    2 Cup Colour Machine – NZ$1,800.00
    Portable Colour Machine – NZ$800.00
    (includes postage/packaging and GST)
    NZ$45.00 Hire of colour cottons as per sample.

    Presumably the amounts are listed as “NZ$” because the site also offers them for export.

    Then of course, there is the more contentious issue of spinal manipulation by chiropractors and osteopaths. IMHO, this is also superstition and garbage. And what of traditional Maori healers, who, under PC and Treaty pressure seem to be infiltrating the State-funded national health system?

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  14. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    I’m pretty sure – I don’t practise in criminal law – We dont actually have “manslaughter by negligence” as an offence in NZ…we should….

    We have manslaughter by gross negligence, if you can find an applicable duty.

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  15. Nigel Kearney (1,012 comments) says:

    The woman was completely up front about being an iridologist. How can there be such a thing as negligent practice of iridology as opposed to any other way of practicing it? This is like prosecuting a fortune teller for giving investment advice that turned out badly.

    Either you prosecute every ‘alternative medicine’ practitioner for fraud, or you accept that gullible people will be fleeced and sometimes have serious medical problems going untreated.

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  16. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    Both the women involved are negligent – the ideologist and the woman with the lesion. To blame one and not the other is unjust.

    I suspect a lot of people agree with you, but given the “woman with the lesion” is dead, I’m not sure punishing her more will achieve much.

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  17. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    “Te Horo iridologist Ruth Nelson is appearing before the tribunal in a case brought by the Human Rights Commission. It says Mrs Nelson, in her 70s, breached the code of human rights in failing, as a healthcare provider, to give Mrs Maine proper care.”

    What Nigel said. She isn’t a healthcare provider, so how could that be her duty. More evidence (if that were required) of the pointlessness of the Human Rights Commission.

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  18. flipper (4,051 comments) says:

    “Alternative medicine” is often therapeutic for those past even palliative treatment by conventional or experimental means.

    Currently, my former GP, and good family friend, is under going “alternative” treatment for an inoperable brain tumour. It is helping him in his quest to do “whatever I can to beat the bloody thing.”

    And I once paid the air fare of an employee to travel to Mexico for alternative cancer treatment. It was bound to fail, but he spent his last three months at peace with himself.

    I do not know how these matters should be properly described, but they are not “alternative medicine”. And there is the rub !!~

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  19. Griff (7,683 comments) says:

    I bet there is a link between low IQ and belief in alternative medicines.
    surprisingly no
    There is a link between climate change denial- conservatism- and low IQ.

    I have lost two close friends to breast cancer.

    Dianne went with the doctors and scientific based medicine and had twenty good years of life between the first diagnose and death.

    Mandy died within two years after blowing tens of thousands on whacky alt therapy.

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  20. Tinshed (170 comments) says:

    Pleased to see the Human Rights Commission take this case
    We’re employing the HRC to enforce common sense. No wonder we’re broke
    I believe the prosecution resulted originally from a complaint to The Health and Disability Commissioner.

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  21. Robo (24 comments) says:

    Responsibility lies with this patient and her family and friends. The quack was just an enabler, feeding off an anti science popular culture. For all we know she actually believed this rubbish. If the patient had a very low IQ and/or severe psychological problems, more reason for those who cared about her to forcibly intervene.

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  22. David Garrett (7,271 comments) says:

    Robo: Well said.

    Jack5: I am aware that “colour therapy” used to be big in Taranaki – particular round the other side of the mountain, where there is lots of inbreeding…Can you describe exactly what it involves? Is it as basic as “showing” the patient various kinds of coloured cotton to supposedly treat them?

    Graeme E: Would there not be a simple duty of care incurred by anyone who purports to treat the sick? I realise you then get into the problem of proving that someone “treated” someone with some whacky therapy inadequately…very difficult when the treatment is whacky to begin with, and no amount of it, no matter how well administered, is going to help…

    flipper: Also well said…and good on you for showing such compassion to your late former employee…Obviously once someone is diagnosed as terminal by the doctors, any sort of “treatment” is likely to be appealing…

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  23. Fisiani (1,039 comments) says:

    I thought the Health and Disability Commissioner was now entitled to investigate any health provider whether registered or not. Clearly someone claiming to use iridology to monitor health is a health provider.

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  24. Fentex (971 comments) says:

    It’s a tricky question to ask if people need to be protected from their own bad decisions (but I don’t think many people would have a problem with fools and charlatans being held responsible for the harm they do), but one thing that is certain is that no public authority should lend credence or support to quacks.

    Homeopathy, chiropradry, acupunture and all their ilk – none of this nonsense should attract the blessings or funding from any public sources.

    It is shameful that some do.

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  25. Viking2 (11,467 comments) says:

    How about. Personal responsibility?

    Why didn’t this lady go to the DR.?

    Doesn’t condone the other stupid bitch but when you are sick you go to a Doctor. End of story.
    Well most do.

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  26. Fentex (971 comments) says:

    From DPF’s previous post

    I’m not sure you protect people from their own choices.

    And this post…

    Pleased to see the Human Rights Commission take this case.

    I find it an interesting example of how important context is.

    [DPF: The issue is that she was lied to by this person and actively discouraged from seeking medical assistance. Choices need to be informed]

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  27. Colville (2,268 comments) says:

    I know that someone involved in this case is a KB reader so will be interesting to see if She comes on to make her first ever comment :-)

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  28. David Garrett (7,271 comments) says:

    Fentex: I am not sure what you mean by “chiroprady”, but assume you mean chiropratic…I happen to agree with you about them – charlatans taking lots of money for making your back click and crunch in my view – but you start to get into a very tricky area … For example, someone above mentioned osteopaths….as I understand it, mainstream medicine has long recognised that osteopathy has a place – I have certainly benefited from it – although there is considerable disagreement among mainstream medical practitioners of the value – if any – of chiropractors and accupuncturists…for both of those “alternative therapies” you can find mainstream practitioners or their organisations who say they are complete bullshit artists, and others who are quite happy to refer their patients to them. My middle aged hard boiled GP is quite happy to send me to an osteo for example, but says “on your own head be it” when you start talking about chiropractors…He would send a letter to my shrink if I ever talked about consulting a colour man…

    But this evil quack in Nelson is clearly outside any benevolent grey area of interpretation…If she wasn’t actually making her poor deluded patient worse, she was certainly an acquiescing witness to her rapidly worsening condition….

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  29. berend (1,708 comments) says:

    Aren’t we talking about an ADULT here?

    Her life, her choices, her responsibility. Yes, she made bad choices. Yes, you can do that when you’re an adult.

    I really see no case here, except perhaps a case of intentional deception: i.e. you promote a product with a claim that is (knowingly) false, i.e. false advertising.

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  30. Fentex (971 comments) says:

    The issue is that she was lied to by this person and actively discouraged from seeking medical assistance. Choices need to be informed

    This seems to support a concept of holding people accountable in their daily affairs, or at least financial transactions, for the truth of statements they make.

    That makes me wonder about the implications such would have for the advertising industry and any other public speech advancing a position.

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  31. SGA (1,022 comments) says:

    Simon Singh, co-author of “Trick or treatment: Alternative medicine on Trial”. He’s writing about homeopathy in particular here, but the same can apply to other alternative medicines.

    Perhaps the greatest danger occurs when homeopathy replaces a conventional treatment. ,,, we developed a storyline in which Tuff would be making a ten week overland trip through West Africa, where there is a high prevalence of the most dangerous strain of malaria, which can result in death within three days. Tuff, a young graduate, would explain to homeopaths that she had previously suffered side-effects from conventional malaria tablets and wondered if there was a homeopathic alternative.
    ….
    She then visited or phoned ten of them, mainly based in and around London. … ten out of ten homeopaths were willing to advise homeopathic protection against malaria instead of conventional treatment, which would have put our pretend traveller’s life at risk.

    abridged from – http://www.1023.org.uk/whats-the-harm-in-homeopathy.php

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  32. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Re David Garrett’s 10.12 query on colour therapy:

    My only encounter, ferrying a sick relative to a practioner at his request, found people sitting round with wires of varying colours around their wrists and attached to some electric device which was purportedly treating each person with the appropriate colour waves according to their ailment. All bullshit of course.

    David, here is a first-person account of someone who undertook the treatment:

    http://michelindownunder.wordpress.com/tag/colour-therapy/

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  33. Fentex (971 comments) says:

    This tragic story is the perfect answer to those misguided believers who ask what is the harm in alternative or complementary medicine

    There is a website, “What’s The Harm”, dedicated to documenting these things.

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  34. David Garrett (7,271 comments) says:

    jack5: Thanks very much…most amusing…but there’s nowt so strange as folk eh? I had a close female friend once – an intelligent well educated lady – who was convinced that homeopathy was real…even when it emerged that analysis could show there was not ONE MOLECULE of the original substance in the “highly diluted” substances she took for this or that….What explains that doggedly persistent belief? You can imagine the stupid or uneducated being taken in, but this woman was neither…

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  35. Griff (7,683 comments) says:

    This guy has some interesting posts on the whole alt med paradigm
    http://www.badscience.net

    I see I got down voted for pointing out anti science wingnuttery is the same whether it is from alt med on the left or alt climate on the right.

    The Mandy in my post who died from breast cancer @ 32 was a qualified Naturopath who had devoted her to short life to alt med.

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  36. gander (91 comments) says:

    David Garrett (4,143) Says:
    August 27th, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    . . .
    But this evil quack in Nelson. . .

    David, we have enough quacks around here without having to admit ownership of this wretch. She’s in Te Horo. Other island.

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  37. OneTrack (3,089 comments) says:

    Darwin strikes again.

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  38. Nostalgia-NZ (5,193 comments) says:

    The ‘harmless’ cyst was 40 years in the making. The HRC are missing the bus on this, terrible as the details of the final situation with this woman were. About the same understanding of this as the ‘down’ posts on flipper’s comments in his post above.

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  39. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Many years ago , Ruth Nelson really helped myself and my family..It was a shock to hear of her involvement in this situation.

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  40. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Joanna, your or your family may have had a narrow escape. Irridology is quackery.

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  41. Kea (12,803 comments) says:

    I see I got down voted for pointing out anti science wingnuttery is the same whether it is from alt med on the left or alt climate on the right.

    Griff you got voted down because you were wrong. I agree with almost all of your posts outside of AGW. Does that make you a far right conspriwacky anti science nut ?

    I simply disagree with your climate religion as I am an atheist. :)

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