When people ask, “What is the harm in pseudoscience?” This is something to point to.
An extremist naturopath based in Australia nearly starved an eight-month-old baby to death by putting his breastfeeding mother on a liquid-only diet.
Marilyn Pauline Bodnar, a former nurse who promotes an “alternative medicine” based on pseudoscience, was given between seven and 14 months for almost killing the boy through starvation. She pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the mother in failing to provide for the boy three years ago.
Although the maximum penalty is a five-year jail term, Judge Peter Berman handed down a non-parole period of seven months for the “well-intentioned but seriously misguided advice”.
Bodnar deeply regrets her actions and has vowed to never work with children again, her defence team says.
Lawyer Rick Mitry said the Leppington naturopath was paraded in front of media cameras by police during her July 2015 arrest and has since been “trolled and bullied on social media”.
“She feels crushed, she has been punished,” he said.
Bodnar’s lawyers have done a good job of playing the victim card, but let’s take a minute to review what happened to the actual victim. He was near death when he was admitted to the hospital in May 2015 for severe malnourishment and developmental issues.
The eight-month-old victim weighed only 6.5 kilograms, or 14.33 pounds (20 lbs. is closer to normal), and had several other serious issues.
He weighed just 6.5 kilograms, was emaciated and severely dehydrated, had sunken eyes, dangerously low sodium levels and flexed hands and feet. The mother had sought health treatment advice from Bodnar about her son’s eczema and was told to stop conventional medical and dermatological treatments, the court previously heard.
The former nurse recommended a raw food diet and eventually water only for the woman, who was exclusively breastfeeding the infant.
At one point Bodnar modified the water-only rule by adding watermelon for three days.
This woman almost killed a baby because he had eczema, a relatively mild skin condition. As most pseudoscientific “wellness” practitioners do, she recommended the mother stop traditional medical treatment, preventing doctors from noticing the child’s diminishing health until it was almost too late.
Prosecutors say Bodnar starved the boy out of a “blind allegiance” to her alternative medicine ideology. In the same way that some faith-healing parents have confidence in prayer, this woman was sure water was all the woman (and therefore the boy) needed.
Britt Marie Hermes, a former naturopath who has since become an outspoken advocate for science-based medicine, said in an email that this case was both disappointing and not all that surprising.
This case is so sad. It is a tragic example of the dangers of naturopathy and how naturopathic advice that is seemingly benign, like diet changes, can be deadly. As I’ve said over and over, naturopaths are not trained in medicine and, as a result, commonly miss red flag symptoms.
It’s been my experience that when natural remedies fail to help the patients, naturopaths rarely doubt their treatments. Instead, they blame the patients and adhere, usually even with more conviction, to their original advice. This seems to be the case here as well.
It’s good that Bodnar will spend some time in jail, and I’m definitely relieved that she’s no longer going to be working with children, but is 7-14 months really enough time to deter her from doing this again when the maximum sentence was five years?
I hope so, for the sake of anyone she tries to “help” in the future.
(Screenshot via 9 News)