Skeptic News: New Zealand Warning against alternative therapies

From: Newstalk NZ

There’s a clear warning for patients to be diagnosed by conventional treatment instead of alternative therapies.

It comes after an iridologist treated a woman with a lesion on her head for 18 months, despite knowing from the start the situation was beyond her ability to treat. New Zealand Medical Association Chairman Paul Ockleford says accurate diagnosis is vital.

“Valuable time was lost that could have resulted in getting a diagnosis and getting the right treatment.”

He says the natural health practitioner should have referred the patient for a proper biopsy.

“The natural health practitioner in this case was not only out of her depth, but appeared to make the situation worse by playing on the apparent fear the patient had for conventional medicine.”

The Health and Disability Commission has investigated, and will refer the practitioner to a Human Rights Review Tribunal.

The woman first saw the iridologist, a practitioner who diagnoses patients by looking at their irises,  and natural health practitioner about the lesion in 2008. At that time, the patient thought the lesion was a cyst. From the beginning of the treatment, the provider thought the lesion looked cancerous and that it was beyond her ability to treat, a report released today from deputy health and disability commissioner Tania Thomas says.

Treating the lesion involved picking out dead skin, cleaning it, and using topical and oral remedies. It initially appeared to improve, but then became larger, was often infected, bled frequently and smelled unpleasant, according to the HDC report. No records of the woman’s treatment were kept during the 18 months she was seeing the natural health practitioner, and she did not see any other health practitioners during that time.

The patient visited a hospital in June 2009 where she was diagnosed with cancer. She had surgery but died a year later.

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