Sentencing of naturopath for advice regarding care of child

“…The criminal law does not often get involved in the choice of a person to give or to accept advice based on alternatives to conventional medicine. Thus people are perfectly entitled to portray themselves as able to cure illnesses through the placement of crystals on the body, the use of highly diluted solutions, and the eating of activated almonds.

But the criminal law does get involved when harm results from dangerous advice and where gross recklessness in the giving of such advice leads to a significant risk of death. Those who purport to be qualified to give medical advice, whether doctors or not, have an obligation to provide advice which is based on proved results, not merely fake science and faith. And those who give advice with the potential to harm others have an obligation to ensure that continued acceptance of that advice does not lead, as in this case, to a real possibility that the well-meaning but seriously misguided advice causes a risk of death of an innocent child (at [1] – [2]).

In R v Bodnar [2018] NSWDC 76 the advice given by the offender Marilyn Bodnar  (a naturopath) to the mother of a child with eczema almost led to that child’s death. The court noted that the advice should probably never been given in the first place but the fact that Ms Bodnar continued to give that advice in the face of evidence of the harm that was being caused, and in the absence of Ms Bodnar monitoring the condition of the child, meant that it was seriously criminal behaviour to continue giving such flawed advice (at [3]).

The offender pleaded guilty to having aided, abetted, counselled or procured the commission of an offence by the child’s mother, that being an offence of being a person having parental responsibility recklessly and without reasonable excuse failing to provide the child with the necessities of life, the result of that failure causing a danger of death.

A sentence of 14 months imprisonment was imposed, with a non parole period of 7 months.

 

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