Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Unsafe health practices blamed on 'soft' law

Unsafe health practices blamed on 'soft' law
By Catharine Munro
July 17, 2005
The Sun-Herald

The State Government has failed to toughen up laws preventing self-proclaimed miracle workers from preying on the desperately ill, nearly three years after it announced a crackdown.

Professor John Dwyer, the chairman of a committee that was set up to combat "dodgy cures and health practices" in late 2002, said the Government had not followed its recommendation to clamp down on people posing as doctors or naturopaths in NSW.

The committee had given the Government a list of "repeat offenders" who had "had their wrists slapped" after promising to make their clients better with unproven remedies.

"We just wanted to make the point that reoffending was common in this industry," Professor Dwyer said. "Complaints from practitioners weren't followed through."

One of those known to the Government was medical imposter Jeffrey Dummett, who is now facing possible manslaughter charges over the death in February 2002 of 37-year-old Vecko Krsteski. On Friday, a coroner found that a jury was likely to find beyond reasonable doubt that Dummett's treatment had caused Krsteski's death.

Professor Dwyer said the coroner's findings were good news because many cases fell through the cracks while the regulation of the alternative medicine industry was often put in the "too-hard basket" by state and federal governments. During the inquest, expert witnesses called for a register of naturopaths to be set up.

The death of Krsteski, a Sydney Airport security guard, came just months after Dummett was fined more than $33,000 for posing as a doctor. In 1995 he had been expelled from the Australian Traditional Medicine Society for posing as a doctor when his only qualification was in Swedish massage.

When Dummett took Krsteski into his care in 2002 he had already been pulled up by the NSW Medical Board for again posing as a doctor and found guilty of breaching fair trading laws while doing business in Lismore.

Krsteski was chronically ill with hepatitis B and suffering from end-stage renal failure when he started Dummett's in-house detox program on February 13.

During his time with Dummett, he abandoned the dialysis treatment provided by St George Hospital that was making his kidneys function. Police say he died alone and in pain of a massive heart attack following renal failure some time between 7pm on February 25 and 7.30am the next morning.

Dummett had drawn up a program for Krsteski that consisted of enemas, sunbathing, walking and a diet that led Krsteski to lose 11 kilograms in 10 days.

Professor Stephen Myers, a complementary medicine expert, told an inquest into Krsteski's death that the diet of vegetable juices and protein drink that Krsteski had been put on was "poison" for a man suffering from kidney failure.

His death did not prevent Dummett from printing out an invoice for $4971.77, dated the day after he found Krsteski's body.

The Director of Public Prosecutions will now decide whether to lay manslaughter charges over Krsteski's death.

A spokesman for Health Minister Morris Iemma said the State Government was "moving forward on regulation of complementary practitioners" and would make public draft laws regulating Chinese medicine later this year.