$90,000 fine over illegal health treatments

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2014

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A New Plymouth couple who offered osteopath services illegally have been fined more than $90,000.

Brendan Pittwood, 46, and Joanne Pittwood, 44, have pleaded guilty to nine charges between them of illegally performing a manipulative technique.

Both had been advertising their services as osteopaths when neither were registered.

Brendan Pittwood admitted six charges under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, incurring fines totalling $60,780, and Joanne Pittwood admitted three charges, incurring fines totalling $30,390.

Complaints from patients dated from August 2010 to February 2013, the New Plymouth District Court was told. Brendan had never been an osteopath and although Joanne had been in the past, she was suspended in 2007 and had not reregistered.

The risks of doing the technique incorrectly included the possibility of stroke or death, bone fracture and irritation of nerve roots, the court was told.

Prosecutor Sally Carter said the couple's claim that they did not know the technique was restricted to registered osteopaths was ridiculous. "They were working in a community where there were others they could have consulted."

Carter said the fact neither was registered meant their practice was entirely unsupervised.

Defence lawyer Julian Hannam said the couple were productive, useful people who actually helped people. "It is their sincere hope they can help people as healers."

Hannam said the couple did not set out to deceive their patients.

Judge Allan Roberts said Joanne Pittwood's display of an outdated certificate was a tacit encouragement to patients to accept she was qualified.

Roberts told Brendan Pittwood he had coat-tailed on his wife's mischief. "No current qualifications disclosed, yet practise you did, in a field where you were unqualified. Unsupervised and unregulated, you both created risks for patients lulled into believing you could administer the appropriate treatment."

Roberts said the offending occurred over a deliberate and sustained period.

Statements showed most patients felt betrayed and although only one experienced physical issues, most said they would not have sought treatment from the Pittwoods if they knew they were not registered.

The Ministry of Health said spinal manipulation carried a risk that was minimised through practitioners being professionally registered, having appropriate training and being involved in continuing education.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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