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In the Media

Prosecution asks that alternative healer be banned from practice

article:272963:6::0
By Bart B. Van Bockstaele
May 22, 2009 in Health
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In the court case against the alternative healers that allowed well-known Dutch actress Sylvia Millecam to die from cancer, the Public Prosecutor has asked that spiritual healer Jomanda be given a two year practice ban and a suspended 12 month jail term.
Sylvia Millecam was a well-known and well-loved Dutch actress. She was diagnosed of breast cancer in 1999, a diagnosis that was confirmed in 2000. Sylvia Millecam didn't like the perspective offered by modern medicine and turned to alternology instead. She died in August 2001.
The video above is Sylvia Millecam singing about New Age for a consumer protection programme called Ook dat nog, a programme that made her famous. It was based on the BBC's That's Life! In the song, she sings about how her relationship with an elm tree and New Age make her free. It is in Dutch, and therefore not very useful for English speakers, but it is appropriate because it shows Millecam doing that for which she is famous, and because the subject is the one discussed here.
Several people who claim to be alternative health care practitioners are on trial. The most important of these is spiritual healer Jomanda. The Public Prosecutor reports that it wants the court to ban Jomanda from practising her healings for two years and also wants a suspended jail term of 12 months.
The reason for the relatively harsh sentencing demands is that Jomanda was involved with Sylvia for a long time and that she did not try to convince Sylvia to go to a genuine doctor.
The Volkskrant, a leading Dutch newspaper, reports reports that Luc Benistant, Jomanda's lawyer, says that this sentencing would "definitely harm" his client: "Until recently, she has done healings in Canada. She is also having tours in Japan." (1).
Nol Willemsen, Millecam's partner, says that the court case wasn't necessary for him. He says that the passed 8 years have allowed him to find closure and that the two doctors involved had already been sentenced by the disciplinary board of their professional organisation and that he isn't waiting for their conviction. "On top of that, these were choices we made ourselves. I have a hard time accusing others for this. On the other had, I realise now that health care practitioners have their own responsibilities as well. If the judge later finds that they have made mistakes, then that is fine by me." (1).
Willemsen is affected by the impression the Public Prosecutor is giving that Sylvia was being influenced by the alternologists. "I have most problems with the idea that Syl has been naive," he says (1).
Several acquaintances and doctors of Sylvia Millecam have declared that Jomanda had told her several times that she did not have breast cancer. The Public Prosecutor is of the opinion that the two doctors on trial and Jomanda had told Sylvia that she did not have cancer but a bacterial infection. Her partner says that Jomanda had told Sylvia that she should "not be cut open" (1). The two doctors and Jomanda are suspected to have prevented Sylvia from receiving appropriate health care.
As a result, Millecam wasn't treated by real doctors, and as a result, her tumour was able to increase enormously. In the end, the right side of her chest was nearly entirely occupied by the tumour. The oncologist who saw her at the end, said that he had never seen something like this.
Approximately 50 people have been heard for the court case. The court was shown a recording of Jomanda in an interview with Nova in 2001 where she said "I continue to fight the word cancer, absolutely" (1). When asked if she had said that it wasn't cancer, she answered "yes" (1).
Although Jomanda was asked to come to the trial, she did not. She claims she is afraid to go because she fears that something will happen at or in the neighbourhood of the court. The court isn't pleased, but decided not to do anything about it, for the time being.
Sylvia Millecam had the right to decide for herself. That is why the Public Prosecutor originally did not want to prosecute. However, the Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (Association against Quackery), ex-police inspector Menso Westerouen van Meeteren and the Skepsis foundation have convinced the court to prosecute anyway.
The Amsterdam court is of the opinion that alternative therapists are not allowed to give people erroneous advice. People who are seriously ill are very vulnerable for the reassuring message that nothing is wrong with them, and that this vulnerable position no longer enables them to freely choose.
The people who were close to Sylvia Millecam think that the courtcase is tarnishing SYlvia's memory and that a "group of extreme regulars" is exploiting the Millecam case to get jurisprudence and send an "anti-alternative signal".
Jomanda's lawyer claims that there is no proof against Jomanda and that the NOVA interview was edited, takes her words out of context and does not reflect what she really said.
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(1) Translated from the original Dutch by myself
References
OM: 2 jaar geen healings door Jomanda, de Volkskrant, 22 May 2009
Rechtbank vindt afwezigheid Jomanda onbevredigend, de Volkskrant, 11 May 2009
Jokken kwakzalver steviger aangepakt, de Volkskrant, 11 April 2008
Mensen zien toch graag een wondertje, de Volkskrant, 11 april 2008
Nabestaanden Millecam zien niets in proces, de Volkskrant, 11 May 2009
Jomanda ontkende kanker bij Millecam, de Volkskrant, 12 May 2009
Jomanda raadde Sylvia Millecam operatie af, de Volkskrant, 11 May 2009
More Jomanda, James Randi in Swift, JREF, 6 May 2005
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More about Jomanda, Sylvia millecam, Alternology
 
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