A self-professed natural healer who runs regular health workshops in Cook Islands has been permanently barred from providing health services or lectures after giving potentially fatal health advice to ill people.
New South Wales’ Health Care Complaints Commission has found Barbara O’Neill told people their cancer was a fungus that could be cured with baking soda rather than through conventional medical treatment.
She also gave misleading and dangerous pregnancy and child-rearing advice through her seminars, website, online lectures and consultations with clients.
O’Neill had no relevant health-related degrees or diplomas, the commission found, and didn’t keep records of consultations. It ruled that she was a danger to the public and imposed a lifetime ban on her providing health services or giving lectures.
However, the commission has no power to ban O’Neill from continuing her free workshops in the Cook Islands. She had visited twice, and she’s booked to return in May next year.
Close supporter Cheryl Marsters, who helped O’Neill run workship in Sinai Hall last month, revealed the death of a Cook Islands man who had been following O’Neill’s advice in the hope of curing his cancer.
The cancer had progressed to stage four, when the man decided to follow O’Neill’s recommended sodium bicarbonate treatment.
The man, who resides in New Zealand, had returned to Rarotonga to undergo treatment with the help of their group.
She said his last treatment – which involved applying a solution of baking soda, lemon juice and boiled water to the skin then wrapping the patient in towels – was three months ago.
As a result, Marsters said, he had survived to spend two quality years with his family.
Unfortunately, she said, he passed away a week ago.
Marsters confirmed O’Neill had advised on cancer remedies in Rarotonga, but had always emphasised these were a matter of choice. And she never charged them anything when she came here.
There were plenty of testimonies around the world from people who treated themselves using natural remedies for cancer, she added.
O’Neill’s last visit to Cook Islands was just three weeks before the Complaints Commission handed down its ban.
Marsters said she had asked about the complaints: O’Neill had insisted she was falsely accused.
O’Neill didn’t advocate just one method for cancer remedies, Marsters said. “She does tell people that it’s a matter of choice, she never goes against the pharmaceutical companies or the doctors.”
O’Neill gave a testimony of how her daughter, who had complications giving birth in America and had to be hospitalised, was very grateful with the treatment she received from the doctors and the nurse. “She says there is always a place for medication, it’s just up to a point if you can self-treat yourself where natural remedies are recommended.”
In terms of vaccination, Marsters said O’Neill only advised people to investigate about vaccinations and decide for themselves. She said people were not forced.
Marsters said the event that O’Neill attended last month received good support from the community. “This is a country that supports and uses Maori medicine, the use of natural remedies like using plants and trees to cure sicknesses, it’s common here, it’s common in the Pacific.”
But Cate Walker, whose mother Gloria died and was buried in the Nikao Cemetery, following unsuccessful cancer treatment from notorious therapist Milan Brych, expressed alarm at O’Neill’s remedies.
“It disturbs me greatly to hear that a “naturopath” who has been permanently banned in Australia … is being promoted in the Cook Islands.”
And Jaewynn McKay, past president of the Cook Islands Breast Cancer Foundation, warned that cancer sufferers should be cautious about whom they take medical advice from.
“Take the time to research people and what they say,” she said. “Make sure there's actually scientific evidence to back up their claims – and remember, there's a reason why hospitals employ qualified cancer specialists. They know what they’re talking about.
“Don't let yourself, or your loved ones, buy into false hope.”