Iridologist gave woman false hope tribunal told

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 27/08/2013
Yvonne Maine
60 MINUTES
YVONNE MAINE: Died of skin cancer.
Yvonne Maine
NZ MEDICAL JOURNAL
RIGHTS BREACHED: Mrs Maine after surgery and radiotherapy.

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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.

By the time renowned Hutt Hospital plastic surgeon Swee Tan saw her, all he could do was ease Mrs Maine to a dignified death.

Mainstream medicine could have saved her life, he told the hearing. Instead, Mrs Maine was subjected to something he did not consider to be within the realm of "treatment".

"If you keep watching this thing grow bigger and bigger, it would seem to me that is not ‘treatment'."

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.

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.

"Honestly, everybody who looked at this despaired," he said.

Mrs Maine had advanced skin cancer. She was given radiation therapy and skin grafts to reconstruct her scalp and skull, but the cancer could not be halted and she died in June 2010.

Mrs Taylor said her mother was "fearful" of hospitals and Mrs Nelson had played on that phobia.

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"Mum had a lot of faith in Ruth, and would defend her to us kids . . . my mother was very stubborn and believed wholeheartedly that Ruth could help her."

In his opening statement, Human Rights Commission counsel Aaron Martin told the court that, by treating Mrs Maine, Mrs Nelson misrepresented the therapeutic efficiency of what she could offer and gave her patient "false hope".

In the coming week, Mrs Maine's second daughter and a natural therapist will be called to testify before Judge Rodger Haines, QC.

WHAT IS AN IRIDOLOGIST?

Iridology is the practice of analysing a patient's eye – specifically, the iris – to assess their health. It is believed the structures of the iris, the coloured part of the eye, can reveal inflammation in the body and how it is manifesting.

An iridologist will usually examine an eye to look for discoloration or marks, believing it will tell them what part of the body is ill.

OTHER TREATMENTS HOMEOPATHY

A therapy aimed at improving a person's physical, mental and emotional state through natural medicines.

BOWEN TECHNIQUE

A series of precise moves on specific points of the body, which claim to initiate positive energy flow and isolate it in a chosen area.

REFLEXOLOGY

Massaging the feet, believed to increase blood circulation and thus relax the nervous system and improve energy flow. 

- The Dominion Post

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