Naturopath O’Neill banned for life

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission has given a life ban to naturopath Barbara O’Neill.

The order permanently prohibits O’Neill from “providing any health service, whether on a paid or voluntary basis, to any person”.

The term “health service” includes “health education services”, which were a feature of the northern NSW Misty Mountain Health Retreat founded by O’Neill and her husband Michael in 2001.

Breaking the terms of the prohibition order could incur a six months prison sentence.

A Statement of Decision (issued on September 24 but only published today), says that “The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission conducted an investigation into the professional conduct of Mrs Barbara O’Neill, an unregistered practitioner who provides services as a naturopath, nutritionist and health educator.

“The complaints under investigation alleged that Mrs O’Neill makes dubious and dangerous health claims regarding infant nutrition, causes and treatment of cancer, antibiotics and vaccinations that are not evidence based or supported by mainstream medicine.

The prohibition order follows several complaints made last year, which led the HCCC to impose an interim ban in December 2018. The complaints covered various aspects of O’Neill’s operations and claims, with the complainants including accredited practising dietitian Mandy-Lee Noble, the Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters group, and SAVN co-founder Ken McLeod.

Of particular concern to the Commission was that “Mrs O’Neill cannot recognise and provide health advice within the limits of her training and experience. Mrs O’Neill considers herself qualified to provide health advice in highly complex and specialised areas such as cancer treatment, use of antibiotics for Strep B and immunisation in circumstances where it is clear her knowledge is limited.

“The Commission’s investigation found that Mrs O’Neill does not recognise that she is misleading vulnerable people (including mothers and cancer sufferers) by providing very selective information. The misinformation has huge potential to have a detrimental effect on the health of individuals as Mrs O’Neill discourages mainstream treatment for cancer, antibiotics and vaccinations.”

While O’Neill says she is a retired naturopath and nutritionist, her website indicates she works at the Retreat and will help to guide clients through detox programs designed to “help you recover” from heart disease, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalance, diabetes, candida/fungus, drug addictions, cancer treatments, heartburn, and obesity/weight loss. She is an active anti-vaccination campaigner and speaker, and has recommended a range of alternative treatments and advice. These include telling pregnant mothers to refuse antibiotic treatment for Strep B infection, and using raw goat’s milk for infants as a substitute for breast milk. This latter treatment was singled out in the interim prohibition order.

The initial order elicited a campaign by O’Neill and her supporters, including a GoFundMe crowdfunding appeal to raise $20,000 for legal defence. From its launch in January, that campaign has fallen short of the anticipated amount, having raised $12,205 (as of October 1, 2019).

Noble said that “The HCCC outcome is great and I thank everyone involved. But prohibition orders are not much help once the harm is done. The message I would like to give health consumers is that naturopathy is not based in science or medicine and naturopaths are not regulated, so you take all the risk.”

McLeod added that “It is reassuring that the HCCC relied on the science and were not dissuaded by petitions from O’Neill’s misguided acolytes.”

Misty Mountains is claimed to be run as a not-for-profit, and is registered as a “health promotion charity”, with deductible gift recipient status from the Australian Taxation Office.

A complaint was also made to the Australian Charities and Non-profits Commission, which regulates charities. To date, however, there has been no response from the ACNC.

McLeod said he wonders what the ACNC’s response will now be in light of O’Neill’s permanent prohibition order.

4 thoughts on “Naturopath O’Neill banned for life”

  1. She is still offering advice to people via podcasts. My 21 month old grand daughter is being fed coconut milk and no dairy at all, on the advice of this woman. She should be in gaol because she endangers people’s lives every day of the week. My son’s partner is a nurse but doesn’t believe in Western medicine. if he tries to discuss it, she becomes irrationally angry. I am very worried about the dietary practices that Barbara O’Neill promotes.

  2. As a Seventh-day Adventist health practitioner (certified nutritionist, professional counsellor), I can attest the Seventh-day Adventist at large does not support false claims. We are strong proponents of science in medicine. I feel terrible some extremists hurt our reputation and encourage everyone reading this to get sound medical advice.

  3. Barbara is amazing , she provides clear educational information on how the anatomy works and offers an alternative choice . I find her lectures very educational and her remedies very helpful. Barbara does not dictate what I or anyone should do , she just offers an other alternative by educating people on how the body works and how we can improve our health. Barbara’s advice is no different than many other health practitioners I have researched on google, YouTube, read about in health books and listened to in seminars of late with many of these. Speakers being specialist surgeons, doctors , PT, OT etc as the medical profession is starting to wake up and understand that we need more than just conventional medicine to aid our health. As a cancer patient, to come across this article was a shock , and a great sadness for me personally and no doubt many other people who have benefited from Barbara’s passion for health and her knowledge on the topic . The life time ban is an absolute tragedy for common sense and a great loss of freedom to educate ourselves and make our own choices in life.

    1. Tania, you can still make your own choice in life, but Barbara O’Neill should not be one of them. You may feel you have benefited from her passion, but her knowledge is seriously under question. As the decision says, “Mrs O’Neill makes dubious and dangerous health claims regarding infant nutrition, causes and treatment of cancer, antibiotics and vaccinations that are not evidence based. … Mrs O’Neill considers herself qualified to provide health advice in highly complex and specialised areas such as cancer treatment, use of antibiotics for Strep B and immunisation in circumstances where it is clear her knowledge is limited. … The Commission’s investigation found that Mrs O’Neill does not recognise that she is misleading vulnerable people (including mothers and cancer sufferers) by providing very selective information. The misinformation has huge potential to have a detrimental effect on the health of individuals as Mrs O’Neill discourages mainstream treatment for cancer, antibiotics and vaccinations.” BTW, are you the same Tania who defended Donald Trump’s ‘actions’ against coronavirus in May of this year? That worked out well.
      – Tim Mendham, executive officer, Australian Skeptics Inc

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