An alternative health therapist has been censured after attempting to heal a girl's aura without her consent.
The 16-year old went to the massage therapist seeking relief for migraines, muscle pain and period problems, which culminated in her being dunked in a river for "auric" healing, according to the Health and Disability Commissioner's report published today.
On December 23, 2012, the girl attended her first massage session, with her mother and aunt chaperoning. She reported feeling better afterwards.
On January 10, 2013, she attended a second appointment for Bowen therapy, a type of gentle manipulation technique used to realign the body. This time the girl was accompanied by her aunt. The girl said the second session felt rushed and "really, really weird".
The therapist was concerned about the girl's lack of progress and believed her pain did not have a physical cause. The therapist then "observed" what she considered to be the girl's "auric field" and identified blockages.
She told the teen she had "six entities" inside her, whereas healthy adults usually had one or two. The therapist said these were causing the girl's migraines and making her "very sick". The girl recalled getting upset and crying.
The therapist immediately recommended further treatment with a tohunga (healer) from a local iwi.
The girl, with her aunt, met the therapist and the tohunga at a nearby river, where she was immersed in the water.
"I was really confused and really, really upset and I had no idea what was going on," the teenager said.
She was "made to go under" the water "multiple times". She recalled being told by the tohunga she was not staying under the water long enough. She said she felt as though she was drowning.
She then went back to the therapist's house for a second Bowen session.
The girl later said she found the experience traumatic and told her parents, who made a complaint to the HDC.
In response to the HDC's provisional opinion, the therapist's representative said the girl had the opportunity to decline the auric observation.
The therapist said she gave the girl the option of discussing the referral to the tohunga with her mother but the girl declined, saying she would tell her mother afterwards. The therapist said she assumed, because of the girl's age, that her consent was enough.
Deputy HDC Theo Baker found the massage therapist had not provided "sufficient information" prior to the alternative treatment.
The teen was not able to make an informed choice nor consent to the examination of her auric fields and the referral to the tohunga.
Baker was particularly concerned with the urgency with which the referral took place. She accepted the girl would have felt pressured.
The case also demonstrated the importance of alternative health practitioners being aware of their obligations and responsibilities under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights.
The therapist was asked to apologise and review her practice.
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