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Today the TVOne website hosts a damning summary of a Health and Disability Commisioner’s report on an iridologist who,

… recognised from the beginning that the lesion “looked cancerous” and that it was beyond her ability to treat, the HDC said.

Despite that, the provider treated the lesion for 18 months.

TVOne goes on to write,

Despite being aware the lesion was likely to be cancerous, the provider did not inform the woman of her opinions about the severity of the woman’s condition or that the lesion was worsening during the course of the treatment, the HDC said.

About two and a half years ago, I wrote about an horrific case of natural health treatment of cancer that was widely publicised within New Zealand. That article includes news coverage of that case and links to background on iridology. I cannot confirm if my earlier article is about the same case—the report uses anonymous names—but they have parallels and shared concerns.

At the time I wrote my earlier article, it was unclear at what point that iridologist recognised the nature of the illness was likely to be cancer. Here the practitioner recognised it from the onset but chose to neither tell the patient nor refer them on — shocking.

The HDC, according to TVOne, noted the practitioner’s overly-close relationship with her patient and has passed on to the director of proceedings if action should be taken on the case.

The patient took surgery for her cancer but died about a year later.

Tragic and shocking as the case is, it is good to see these issues being addressed. I have noted several concerns about these types of treatments:

  • Clients approaching someone offering medical remedies–of any kind–should have some assurance that the practitioner is being held to at least some basic responsibilities and at least some basic level of education in medicine.
  • So-called ‘harmless’ ‘alternative’ treatments can cause harm, even loss of life, through delay of better treatment. (A sentiment shared by other bloggers here.)

(Other suggestions welcome.)

Update: Other media reports have directly identified this as the same case; see comments below for links.

Appendix

The executive summary of the Health and Disability Commissioner’s report is copied below:

1. In February 2008, Mrs A consulted Iridologist and Natural Health Practitioner Mrs C about a lesion on her head.

2. Over the following 18 months Mrs C provided treatment, which included cleaning the lesion, discussion around oral remedies, and applying topical remedies. No other health practitioner saw the lesion during this time.

3. Over this period, the lesion grew and was frequently infected. By the time Mrs A sought hospital treatment, the lesion was 10 x 11cm and some underlying bones were damaged. Mrs A was diagnosed with cancer and underwent major surgery. Sadly, she died in 2010.

Decision summary
4. Mrs C did not inform Mrs A of her opinions about her condition, and misled Mrs A about her qualifications. Mrs C therefore breached Rights 6(1), 6(1)(a)  and 7(1)  of the Code.

5. Mrs C did not adequately communicate and document that Mrs A’s situation was outside her expertise. She did not document her suggestion that Mrs A seek further advice. Mrs C acted unethically in failing to take appropriate steps when she had reached the limits of her expertise, and in forming an inappropriate relationship with Mrs A. Mrs C therefore breached Right 4(2)  of the Code.

6. Mrs C did not minimise the potential harm to Mrs A, and therefore breached Right 4(4) of the Code.

7. By discouraging Mrs A from obtaining further treatment Mrs C failed to ensure co-operation among providers to ensure quality and continuity of services, and so breached Right 4(5) of the Code.

8. Mrs C will be referred to the Director of Proceedings in accordance with section 45(2)(f) of the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994 for the purpose of deciding whether any proceedings should be taken.


Other articles on Code for life:

Message to Otago Daily Times: homeopath is not a sound career option*

Homeopathy – practical remedies to address it? 

Homeopathy check-up: Not in the health system, disclaimers on labels

A course for all degrees: PHIL 105, Critical Thinking 

 Aww, crap.