Mr Sean Kirsten – Prohibition order imposed

7 April 2017

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission conducted an investigation into the professional conduct of non-registered health practitioner, Mr Sean Kirsten. Mr Kirsten claimed to be a dietician and an expert in nutrition, and he referred to himself as ‘Dr Sean’. Mr Kirsten operated from a number of premises in NSW, but most recently from rooms in Glebe.

Mr Kirsten appeared on a weight loss reality television program. Following that he said that he decided to change his career and he represented that he gained qualifications in dietetics, science, and nutrition. Mr Kirsten made these representations through his use of letters and emails, information on a variety of websites, his YouTube channel, key-note speeches at seminars and events, and through verbal advice to his clients and others, including those he met from unrelated fields at business conventions.

Around 2013 Mr Kirsten worked in South Australia providing dietary health services, before moving to NSW in 2014. From July 2014 to April 2016  Mr Sean Kirsten treated clients out of rooms he tenanted at the Glebe Healing Centre. Mr Kirsten’s services were usually in the form of a twelve-week program, which included the provision of weekly ‘plant based’ or vegan meal plans, together with face-to-face consultations, at a cost of around $2000.  Mr Kirsten also encouraged clients to purchase food supplements from a company for which he was a distributer, and on which basis he received a commission. 

The investigation found that there is no evidence that Mr Kirsten is in any way qualified to provide any dietitian or nutritional services.

Mr Kirsten blatantly and persistently misrepresented that he had extensive and comprehensive graduate and post-graduate qualifications, and substantial experience in the nutrition field of health.  
Mr Kirsten was previously warned by the Dietitians Association of Australia against using the trade mark ‘Accredited Practising Dietitian’, and making other erroneous professional claims that he held a post-nominal ‘PhD’.  He was advised his conduct was unethical and likely to mislead clients into believing he held qualifications which related to his practise as a dietitian. Despite this warning, Mr Kirsten continued to perpetuate the belief that he had a range of qualifications.

Mr Kirsten’s misleading representations included the following false information:

  • He worked at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as a dietician or as a doctor
  • He worked in the ‘obesity ward’ and ‘eating disorders units’ of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
  • He worked in the ‘eating disorders unit’ of Nepean Hospital
  • He is an Exercise Physiologist
  • He is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian
  • He is a ‘PhD qualified’ Dietitian
  • He is a regular guest expert on Sydney’s 2UE radio station
  • He had worked with the Australian X Factor
  • He attained a Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise and Sports Science)
  • He is a ‘Doctor of Nutritional Science’
  • He attained a range of degrees from Cornell University (USA) including a Bachelor of applied Science (Sport Science), a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition), Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) PhD Honors Nutrition Sciences, and a PhD (Science)
  • He attained a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) PhD Honors, Nutrition Sciences from the Barnard University (USA)
  • He was a ‘Senior Lecturer’ at the University of Sydney
  • He had attained two bachelors and a PhD from the University of Sydney
  • He was a ‘chief adviser’ for a cardiac health program
  • He was the ‘lead dietitian’ or nutritionist of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs rugby league club
  • He was employed as a dietitian by the NSW Waratahs rugby union team
  • He is the owner of the Glebe Healing Centre
  • He was involved in a published clinical research trial
  • He attained a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) PhD Honors, Nutrition Sciences from the Barnard University

Mr Kirsten’s clients included those with complex medical and mental health conditions, such as endocrine disorders and eating disorders.  The Commission obtained detailed evidence of Mr Kirsten’s treatment to five clients. Mr Kirsten lied to these clients and convinced them that he was an experienced and qualified health care professional.  Such clients are particularly vulnerable, and the actions of Mr Kirsten in purporting to treat these conditions are not only unethical but had the potential to cause significant harm to the overall health and wellbeing of his clients.  Mr Kirsten advised one client to cease taking anti-depressant medication (Lexapro) that she had been taking for over three years without consulting with her treating medical practitioner.

Mr Kirsten also held himself out as willing or able to cure cancer.  Mr Kirsten provided meal plans to his clients with a focus on plant-based vegan meals. In one meal plan and receipt booklet provided to clients, Mr Kirsten included statements that plant-based diets can reverse cancer.

Mr Kirsten acted with utter disregard to the health and wellbeing of his clients and continues to show no insight into his wilfully deceitful conduct.

On the basis of the above evidence the Commission found that Mr Kirsten breached the following clauses of the code of conduct for non-registered health practitioners, made under the Public Health Regulation 2012, Schedule 3:

  • Clause 3(1): A health practitioner must provide health services in a safe and ethical manner;
  • Clause 3(2)(b): a health practitioner must not provide health care of a type that is outside his or her  experience or training;
  • Clause 3(2)(c): a health practitioner must not provide services that he or she is not qualified to provide;
  • Clause 3(2)(f): a health practitioner must recognise the limitations of treatment he or she can provide and refer clients to other competent health practitioners in appropriate circumstances;
  • Clause 3(2)(i): a health practitioner must encourage his or her clients to inform their treating medical practitioner (if any) of the treatments they are receiving;
  • Clause 5(1): A health practitioner must not hold himself or herself out as qualified, able or willing to cure cancer or other terminal illnesses.
  • Clause 7(1): A health practitioner must not attempt to dissuade clients from seeking or continuing with treatment by a registered medical practitioner.
  • Clause 12(1): a health practitioner must not engage in any form of misinformation or misrepresentation in relation to the products or services he or she provides or as to his or her qualifications, training or professional affiliations;
  • Clause 12(2): a health practitioner must provide truthful information as to his or her qualifications, training or professional affiliations if asked about those matters by a client.
    The Commission is satisfied that Sean Kristen poses a risk to the health or safety of members of the public.  The Commission therefore makes the following prohibition order:

Mr Sean Kirsten is prohibited from providing any health services in any discipline in a paid or voluntary capacity to any client for a period of two years from the date of the decision.

At the expiry of this two year period Mr Kirsten must not provide either:

a.     Dietitian services, including but not limited to medical nutrition therapy, or clinical nutrition consultation, to either individuals or in a group setting, in either private practice or a hospital setting, until he satisfies the Commission that he has completed a course accredited by the Dietitians Association of Australia, as varied from time to time; or

b.    a health service as a nutritionist until he satisfies the Commission that he has achieved the minimum qualification for registration as required by the Nutrition Society of Australia.

Mr Sean Kirsten is prohibited from representing to any person or organisation that he holds any qualifications as a nutritionist, dietitian and/or applied scientist until evidence is produced to the Commission that satisfies he has attained such qualifications.

Further Information

The public statement can be read here

For further information, contact the Executive Officer of the Health Care Complaints Commission, on 9219 7444 or send an email to media@hccc.nsw.gov.au.

The information in this media release is correct at the time of publication. Orders may change; for example, conditions may no longer apply. For current information regarding the status of a registered health practitioner, including any conditions that currently apply, please check the National Register at www.ahpra.gov.au.