Dr Sartori’s contentious alternative therapy: inquest date set

The Medical Practitioner's Board of Western Australia is looking into the case of a doctor and her role in an alternative cancer therapy program. Five cancer patients have died after apparently being given industrial solvents and dangerous minerals as a part of an alternative therapy program by Alexandra Boyd, a well-known Mosman Park breast cancer specialist. She along with two registered nurses administered the concoctions to the people in question.

The nurses were receiving instructions via telephone and email from Hellfried Sartori, a disgraced Austrian doctor, then based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He is also known Dr Abdul-Haqq Sartori. Therapy was given even in absence of Dr Boyd but the WA Coroner's Court was told yesterday she ordered pathology tests, referred some for blood transfusions, provided some medications and referred some patients to hospital.

Sartori's contentious therapy came into being in 2004 in Australia and was promoted by supporters in the Northern Territory before moving to Perth in 2005. West Australian deputy coroner Evelyn Vicker is looking at evidence. Counsel assisting the coroner Celia Kemp informed the court there was evidence of 22 patients having the therapy in Australia between 2004-05 and 21 had died.

On May 14 2005, Sandra McCarty, 53, from Victoria, Pia Bosso, 68, from NSW, Perth woman Sandra Kokalis, 52, and Deborah Gruber, 42, from New York, underwent the treatment at the Mosman Park home of the local doctor. A fifth patient, 29-year-old Perth man Carmelo Vinciullo, underwent treatment on May 20 2005 but stopped after five days, following unbearable pain and being told to “control the pain with his mind”.

The court last hard the evidence of the niece of 68 year-old Pia Bosso who said that Dr Boyd's home was full of seriously ill patients vomiting and going to the toilet in buckets while being injected with dangerous substances. Sandra Hoffman also said her aunt was so ill on the day she visited Dr Boyd's home that she had diarrhoea and was vomiting continuously. “It was horrible, the smell, the sounds, the conditions . . . these people were in pain . . . there was no care,” she said in her statement. Pia Bosso was suffering from thyroid cancer and had travelled from NSW for the treatment after seeing an advertisement.

Dr. Kemp informed that the therapy was given to patients refusing pain relief and traditional medicine. They were given a risky combination of minerals intravenously including cesium chloride, which can cause rhythm disturbances of the heart called arrythmias. Other chemicals like magnesium sulphate and potassium chloride were also used. Dr Kemp also said in the court that there was no evidence that Dr Boyd had been responsible for prescribing Sartori's treatment regime.

Dr Sartori will not give evidence during the inquest but Dr Kemp read to the court an email in which Sartori said hospital doctors who intervened at the end of the lives of some of the patients were responsible for their deaths, not him. Dr Kemp told the court that Dr Sartori had a notorious career and a criminal history having been jailed for three years in the US for practicing medicine without a license.

The inquest has been set down for six weeks and it continues.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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