Tribunal reprimands, suspends nurse for unproven treatments

20 Jun 2016

The State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia (Tribunal) has reprimanded a nurse and suspended her registration for seven months, for her involvement in the administration and provision of unproven cancer treatments to patients in Perth in 2005.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia referred Ms Merrilee Baker to the tribunal in February 2014, because of concerns about her role in providing treatment devised by unregistered overseas doctor, Helfried Sartori.

The treatment administered by Ms Baker involved the intravenous administration of various nutrients, minerals and substances including caesium, potassium, magnesium, and dimethylsulphoxide, and taking nutritional supplements and specifically prepared food.

A coronial investigation by the WA Deputy State Coroner found that the treatment hastened the death of four patients.

In an agreed statement of facts presented to the Tribunal, Ms Baker admitted to professional misconduct between April and June 2005 when she:

  • prepared the treatment for administration to patients
  • administered the treatment to patients
  • provided nursing care to the patients
  • took observations of the patients while they received the treatment and
  • implemented instructions received from Dr Sartori through another nurse, Ms Simone Phasey.

Ms Baker also conceded she:

  • did not consult a specialist or her professional body about the legality, safety and appropriateness of providing the treatment
  • did not consult a specialist or her professional body about the efficacy of or the risks associated with the treatment or of the individual substances that were part of it
  • acted on instructions, relayed or given to her by Ms Phasey (who was not at the time a registered nurse in Western Australia), from Dr Sartori, despite these being inconsistent with acceptable standards of treatment and care in Australia
  • did not cease the treatment, or her participation in it, until after the death of one of the patients or after other patients were admitted to hospital.

The treatment was administered in a residential home where sterility could not be ensured, and Ms Baker conceded that she did not make sure it was provided in a safe and sterile environment.

On 22 September 2015, the Tribunal found Ms Baker engaged in professional misconduct, reprimanded her, suspended her registration for seven months and ordered her to pay the Board $7000 in legal costs.

The decision will be available shortly on Austlii and the WA SAT.

 
 
Page reviewed 20/06/2016