Mrs Barbara O’Neill – Breaches of Code of Conduct – Permanent Prohibition Order

24 Sep 2019

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. 

Complaints received by the Commission alleged that Mrs O’Neill makes dubious and dangerous health claims that are not evidence based or supported by mainstream medicine, regarding: infant nutrition; causes and treatment of cancer; antibiotics; and vaccinations.  Some of the non-evidence based comments made in Mrs O’Neill’s publications include:

  • raw goat’s milk is an appropriate substitute for breast milk in infant nutrition;  
  • cancer is a fungus that can be treated with bicarbonate soda and can be cured by following a program that includes the cancer conquering diet and sodium bicarbonate wraps for the body;  
  • pregnant women diagnosed with Strep B do not have to take antibiotics;  
  • there are no safe vaccines; vaccinations have caused an epidemic of ADHD, autism, epilepsy and cot death.

The investigation found that Mrs O’Neill has limited qualifications in the area of nutrition and dietetics, which she attained more than 10 years ago.  Of particular concern to the Commission is that Mrs O’Neill is providing health advice beyond 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 investigation also 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 real potential to have a detrimental effect on the health of individuals because Mrs O’Neill also discourages mainstream treatment for cancer, antibiotics and vaccinations.

The investigation determined that Mrs O’Neill breached the Code of Conduct for Unregistered Health Practitioners under Schedule 3 of the Public Health Regulation 2012 in respect of:

  • Clause 3(1): a health practitioner must provide health services in a safe and ethical manner;
  • 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 misrepresentation in relation to the products or services he or she provides or as to his or her qualifications, training or professional affiliations;
  • Clause 15: a health practitioner must maintain accurate, legible and contemporaneous clinical records for each client consultation.

The Commission is satisfied that Mrs O’Neill poses a risk to the health and safety of members of the public and therefore makes the following prohibition order:

  • Mrs O’Neill is permanently prohibited from providing any health services, as defined in s4 Of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity.

The Commission has determined to make its Statement of Decision publicly available under section 41B(3)(c) of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 but has removed material which it considers to be confidential information.

The full Public Statement of Decision can be read here  

Further Information

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.