Barbara O'Neill in 2018
|Alma mater||North Ryde Psychiatric Centre|
|Occupation||Naturopath and Lecturer|
|Known for||A naturopath banned from providing health services in Australia|
Barbara O'Neill is an Australian naturopath and lecturer on health issues who, in 2019, was banned for life by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) from providing free or paid health services. The ban followed an HCCC investigation which found she lacked any health related qualifications, a degree, diploma, or membership in an accredited health organisation. It also found that she provided dangerous, unsupported health advice to vulnerable groups. This included advising parents to feed their infants raw goat milk or almond milk blended with dates or banana instead of formula, and recommending that cancer patients forgo chemotherapy in favour of baking soda wraps and dietary changes.
Although O'Neill has promoted her services as a naturopath, nutritionist, and health educator for at least 15 years, she lacked relevant credentials. She has rejected the claim that her health advice is not evidence-based.
She ran the Misty Mountain Health Retreat near Kempsey, NSW with her husband, charging clients up to AU$3,100 per week for treatments and health retreats. She also provided for-fee telephone consultations. According to O'Neill's website, she provided detox services claiming to aid in recovery from heart disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalance, chronic fatigue, candida/fungus, drug addiction, cancer, heartburn, and obesity.
She has a large YouTube following, with about 700,000 views as of 2019. Her speaking venues have included Seventh-day Adventist Church events. She has previously provided health retreats and wellness programs in Australia and the Cook Islands and plans to continue conducting them in the U.S.
O'Neill promoted the discredited claim that cancer is a fungus. She urged her clients to treat their cancer with baking soda wraps and claimed, without evidence, that one doctor had cured 90% of his patients' cancer with baking soda injections.
O'Neill discouraged immunisation, claiming that vaccines are unnecessary. In one of her YouTube videos, she stated that "children can be naturally vaccinated against tetanus by drinking plenty of water, going to bed early, not eating junk food and running around the hills". She further claimed, without evidence, that "neurotoxins in vaccines have caused an epidemic of ADHD, autism, epilepsy and cot death". O'Neill has campaigned against the Australian No Jab No Pay pro-immunisation initiative.
In several of her YouTube videos, O'Neill discourages the use of antibiotics, claiming, without evidence, that they cause cancer. She has told pregnant women it is unnecessary to take antibiotics for Strep B because "no baby has ever died from Strep B catching out of birth". However, the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' statistics show that 14% of newborns who contract early-onset Strep B die, and that antibiotics can reduce this risk dramatically.
Dietary Advice on Infants
O'Neill has recommended that parents who are unable to breastfeed their infant use substitutes besides formula. These have included unpasteurised goat milk and a mix of almond milk and dates or bananas. Co-author of the National Health and Medical Research Council's Australian infant feeding guidelines, Professor Jane Scott, has stated this advice is "definitely not safe," and that "there is a real danger here for infants as these will not support healthy growth and development".
She has stated this nutrition advice is based solely on her personal experience.
Between October 2018 and January 2019, the New South Wales HCCC received a large number of complaints about O'Neill's health advice. These included a complaint that the advice she provided regarding infant nutrition could cause death if followed, where she disclosed her directives were not based on any official guidance or evidence. The HCCC opened an investigation into O'Neill and an interim prohibition order was placed on her whilst the probe was undertaken.
The Commission found that some of her recommendations were based on ideas espoused by Tullio Simoncini, a former oncologist incarcerated following a conviction for fraud and manslaughter following the death of one of his patients. Some of her guidance was based on the views of doctors who were sued by patients for not providing appropriate treatment. When the HCCC noted these facts to O'Neill, she stated that she still intended to use their advice.
The HCCC also found that O'Neill cannot recognise and provide health advice within the limits of her training and experience, and had not maintained records of the advice she provided to clients. While O'Neill has claimed to have received diplomas in naturopathy, nutrition, and dietetics from two now defunct organisations, the HCCC found that she did not have any health related degree or diploma.
O'Neill claimed that she was merely providing clients with information, rather than advice. She further stated that the advice provided was evidence-based, and that she had not claimed to be able to cure cancer.
The HCCC ultimately found the O'Neill's actions had breached five clauses of the Code of Conduct for Unregistered Health Practitioners. The HCCC further concluded that "Mrs O'Neill does not recognise that she is misleading vulnerable people including mothers and cancer sufferers by providing very selective information." It further concluded that "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 vaccination." The HCCC determined O’Neill to be a risk to the health and safety of members of the public.
On September 24, 2019, The HCCC banned O'Neill for life from providing health services, regardless of whether or not she accepted payment for doing so. A HCCC spokesperson said that O'Neill's activities were being monitored closely and the prohibition order applies in the Australian states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. He also stated, "In general, if the material is accessible in [those jurisdictions] online, then it is considered to be delivering a health service", and that "Presenting health education in any form or delivering health services, would be a breach of her prohibition order." Violating the ban could be punished with a prison sentence of up to six months.
Following the decision, a petition was circulated calling for the HCCC to reverse its decision. As of October 2019, the petition had gained 36,000 signatures.
Following the Investigation
Since the ban O'Neill has claimed she is a victim of a Nazi-style propaganda campaign.
Investigation into charity
In late 2019, O’Neill and her husband’s Misty Mountain Health Retreat came under investigation by the ACNC for alleged breaches to charity law. Under its health promotion charity status the Retreat had received government grants and various tax concessions. In defending its status, the Retreat had claimed it had provided diet, exercise and health advice to indigenous Australians and people with chronic and terminal illnesses.
Continues to practice overseas
Although she has been banned from providing health advice in Australia, O'Neill's website states that "Barbara O’Neill, author, educator, naturopath and nutritionist (retired), is… available for public speaking to companies, community groups, or churches outside of Australia and is sure to please those looking for motivation to live a longer, healthier and happier life."
The month following the HCCC's decision, O'Neill was scheduled to conduct a wellness program in the US at a cost of $2,350 per person.
Cook Islands action
In October 2019, the Cook Islands Secretary of Health Josephine Aumea Herman expressed concern to learn O’Neill had been running health workshops in Rarotonga, and referred the matter onto the chief medical officer of the Cook Islands.
Herman said: "We will follow up on this with her [O’Neill], so in the future she cannot practice healthcare here without the proper registration – which means an annual practising certificate in her country of origin, and other documentation. We must ensure the Cook Islands population remains safe."
- Media release (24 September 2019). "Mrs Barbara O'Neill – Breaches of Code of Conduct: full Public Statement of Decision". Health Care Complaints Commission. NSW Government. Archived from the original on 9 October 2019.
- Scholefield, Antony (4 October 2019). "'Naturopath' banned over bicarb soda cancer cure claims". AusDoc.PLUS. Australian Doctor Group. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
- Elder, John (5 October 2019). "Shonky naturopaths claimed to cure cancer: Banned for life, still advertising". The New Daily. Melbourne VIC: Motion Publishing. Archived from the original on 7 October 2019.
- Davey, Melissa (10 October 2019). "Health retreat run by banned wellness coach Barbara O'Neill under investigation". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 10 October 2019.
- Hall, Harriet (15 October 2019). "Australian Naturopath Barbara O'Neill Banned for Her Dangerous Health Advice". Science-Based Medicine. New England Skeptical Society. Archived from the original on 16 October 2019.
- Hansen, Jane (30 December 2018). "Naturopath's cancer 'healing' claims under the microscope". The Daily Telegraph. NSW: News Corp. Retrieved 7 October 2019. Lay summary (PDF) – republished.
- Davey, Melissa (3 October 2019). "Naturopath who said bicarbonate soda cures cancer banned for life by health watchdog". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 7 October 2019.
- Lothian-McLean, Moya (4 October 2019). "Naturopath who advised bicarbonate of soda as a cancer cure banned by health watchdog". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 7 October 2019.
- Lacanivalu, Losirene (22 October 2019). "Banned healer breaks silence to protest her innocence". Cook Islands News. Archived from the original on 23 October 2019.
- Hansen, Jane (14 April 2019). "Anti-vax naturopath banned after watchdog puts bite on her claims". The Daily Telegraph. NSW: News Corp. Archived from the original on 7 October 2019.
- Brown, Anneka (29 August 2019). "Why Stella is no chicken". Cook Islands News. Archived from the original on 15 October 2019.
- HCCC - Statement of decision (pdf) on Mrs Barbara O’Neill - 24 Sept 2019