Ban for nurse who used 'dangerous alternative' cancer treatments

The whistleblower nurse who made unsubstantiated claims of corruption at two south-west Sydney hospitals will be suspended or banned from nursing after a tribunal found she administered potentially dangerous “alternative” cancer treatments to at least three patients, including her brother.

Nola Fraser, 51, hit the headlines in 2003 when she claimed senior health bureaucrats at Camden and Campbelltown hospitals destroyed or concealed evidence and paid hush money.

Those allegations and her complaint that she was bullied by the then health minister Craig Knowles sparked a string of inquiries, although the Independent Commission Against Corruption ultimately dismissed the allegations.

Ms Fraser went on twice to stand as the Liberal candidate for the state seat of Macquarie Fields and opened a beauty clinic, called Skin Deep, in Narellan.

It was at this clinic that she gave a seriously ill man, who had testicular cancer, an unorthodox cancer therapy called Insulin Potentiation Therapy, or IPT.

The Health Care Complaints Commission – the same body that attracted widespread criticism for its handling of the incidents at Camden and Campbelltown hospitals – prosecuted Ms Fraser for treating three cancer patients with alternative therapies without supervision of a doctor between 2008 and 2010.

This month, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Ms Fraser's conduct so serious as to justify suspension or cancellation of her registration as a nurse.

Ms Fraser's brother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma stage IV in 2007 and decided to pursue IPT.

Ms Fraser travelled with him to the US and Mexico where he had IPT and, on return, put him in touch with an Australian-based, Indian-born man Chittoor Krishnan.

Mr Krishnan, a former doctor, had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and dementia and his application to be reregistered as a medical practitioner was refused by the then NSW Medical Board in 2009.

Ms Fraser told the tribunal she believed Mr Krishnan was a doctor.

However, the tribunal found she "turned a blind eye" and was recklessly indifferent to the status of his registration, despite Mr Krishnan not having an office or doctor's rooms and his bringing in chemotherapy drugs from India rather than via prescription in Australia.

Ms Fraser admitted to obtaining prescriptions for high doses of various vitamins including vitamin C and the chemotherapy drug bleomycin in her own name from a GP, Dr Lyn Tendek, and injecting them into her brother on several occasions.

A highly qualified oncologist, Professor Martin Tattersall, examined Ms Fraser's brother twice, 18 months apart. He told the tribunal the man's cancer was treatable when first seen by him. But Ms Fraser “facilitated her brother's pursuit of non-orthodox, unscientifically proven and potentially dangerous alternative therapies” and she “exposed him to considerable risk of harm in administering bleomycin without proper supervision", he said.

The tribunal found there was not enough evidence to prove she gave IPT to her brother, who died in December 2012.

IPT involves the use of insulin, usually given intravenously, together with about one-tenth of the usual dose of chemotherapy drugs. The insulin supposedly potentiates or magnifies the drugs so lower doses can be used, leading to fewer side effects.

But Dr K.Y. Mark Wong, a staff specialist at the Sydney West Cancer Network, told the tribunal it was inherently dangerous as low doses of chemotherapy might encourage the development of drug resistance in cancer cells and insulin might promote tumour growth.

Vitamin therapy is also not an accepted form of cancer treatment and high doses of vitamin C may cause kidney failure and interact with certain chemotherapy treatments, Dr Wong said.

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