Two naturopaths who peddled dodgy cancer “cures” – and were on the same day banned for life from providing health services – continue to trawl for business via Facebook and other social media outlets.
The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) found that Barbara O’Neill – health director of the Misty Mountains Health Retreat in the quaint hill town of Bellbrook (population 273) – claimed cancer was a fungus that could be treated with bicarbonate soda.
For at least 15 years, Ms O’Neill provided services as a naturopath, nutritionist and health educator — and yet the commission found her to be unqualified in any of these disciplines. She years ago worked as a psychiatric nurse.
Regardless, Ms O’Neill, has a huge online fan base. Her YouTube lectures have been watched by about 700,000 people.
In one of them she advises that “children can be naturally vaccinated against tetanus by drinking plenty of water, going to bed early, not eating junk food and running around the hills”.
She also claims vaccines had caused an “epidemic” of autism and cot death and that raw goats milk was an acceptable substitute for breastmilk for babies.
She told the HCCC her advice was evidence-based, and that she didn’t actually claim to cure cancer.
However, the commission found that she spruiked the bicarbonate soda cure in one of her lectures – and had cited the work of disgraced Italian oncologist Tullio Simoncini, who in 2018 was convicted of manslaughter and fraud after convincing patients with cancer to undergo the therapy. He’s doing five years in prison.
Ms O’Neill got off light. On September 24, the commission concluded that she “poses a risk to the health and safety of members of the public and therefore… is permanently prohibited from providing any health services… whether in a paid or voluntary capacity.”
Calls and messages to Misty Mountain Health Retreat (the website advises opening hours) were responded via the retreat’s Facebook page messaging: “Our centre isn’t banned from operating, only Barbara has been banned. Maybe you should read the information properly before asking questions. Thanks.”
However, Ms O’Neill’s personal website advises she is available for speaking engagements offshore:
“Barbara O’Neill, author, educator, naturopath and nutritionist (retired), is… available for public speaking to companies, community groups, or churches outside of Australia and is sure to please those looking for motivation to live a longer, healthier and happier life.”
The retreat’s website lists her prominently in the staff profiles, alongside her husband, business manager Michael O’Neill. It states that Ms O’Neill is now “retired” but describes her as having “a true gift of healing”.
“She is a popular national and international health educator, with the ability to make complex health principles simple,” the profile reads.
So what gives?
Misty Mountain answered, again via Facebook: “Yes we are in the process of sorting that out. Unfortunately IT is in the hands of others so we are waiting for them to deal with it.”
‘If you stop seeing me you will be committing suicide’
Meanwhile there’s the story to tell of one “Dr” Aleksander Strande who for years pushed herbal remedies for cancer, Hepatitis C, and mental illness via his backyard business, Express Healing.
On September 24, Mr Strande – who promoted himself as a “maestro” of herbal medicine – was found by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission to have bullied vulnerable people into paying thousands of dollars for cures that were worthless.
The commission also found that it was impossible to verify if any of Strande’s claimed qualifications were legitimate.
A person identified as Person A during the HCCC’s investigation said that when he decided to terminate the therapeutic relationship, Mr Strande told him: “If you stop seeing me you will be committing suicide”.
The commission heard that Mr Strande prescribed herbal supplements that caused diarrhoea in a young woman with anorexia. When the woman’s mother attempted to cancel the treatment, Mr Strande told her she was “abandoning” her daughter.
Another client, told the commission Mr Strande convinced him to spend more than $2000 in a five-week period to cure arthritis in his sternum. The client said he was told his conditions were of such seriousness they could not be cured by anyone else.
Strande told the man he probably had a tumour in his hip.
The commission heard Mr Strande routinely promised mentally ill people a path to happiness. His website claimed only natural remedies could cure eczema, that he could put hepatitis C in remission, and that he’d cured schizophrenia in three months.
In permanently prohibiting Mr Strande providing health services, the commission found that Mr Strande:
- Willfully misrepresented and overstated to the Commission and to the public, the level of his qualifications, and his competence to treat serious illnesses.
- Made claims about the efficacy of the recommended treatment when those claims could not be substantiated.
- Lacks the knowledge and expertise to determine whether the products he provides to clients may have adverse reactions with their prescribed medications.
- Failed to provide information to clients regarding the herbal medicines and pressured his clients to continue treatment with him despite their complaints of adverse side effects.
- Was unwilling to seriously reflect on his practice and has no insight into the limitations of his training and qualifications and his competence to treat serious illnesses.
The Express Healing website continues to offer telephone consultations from three telephone numbers – they have Australian, German and Polish country codes.
The Australian number has incoming call restrictions. A message to Strande’s Facebook page wasn’t answered.
His LinkedIn page says he’s now operating from Houston, Texas.