Finally, some good news after a very long and drawn-out court case. A sentencing date will be set on Friday, so now is maybe a good time to recap on the events leading towards this guilty verdict. I am in a way personally involved in this case, or at least it sometimes feels this way.
Back in 2015 I decided to write a letter to our vice-chancellor in which I lamented the dire consequences of integrating quackery with modern healthcare. I warned the VC in very clear terms that not only will science and student training suffer, but the public will get harmed and some may actually die as a result. Please do something about it! This letter was the result of uncovering the terrible way in which science was (is) abused by the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) in order to promote all sorts of quackery in exchange for funding. It took me 2 years to get to the point to write my 6000-word tear-jerker, but unfortunately for me, it all fell on deaf ears. So what can you do?
Well, the only option was to resign and because I was on a visa 457 the Australian government gave me a couple of weeks to pack my bags and bugger off. Because of this rather stressful situation I was completely unaware that roughly during this time the slapping therapist was giving his workshop in Sydney where this poor 6yo boy died.
Back in South Africa I continued to write to the university but they simply ignored everything (and they still do). But I am a scientist and I consider three things to be important at a university, which I call the three S’s. Scientific research and Student training, both of which should lead to a positive impact on Society. So based on my experience of how society are being misled by the NICM, I decided to at least try and warn people about the dangers of integrative medicine by blogging about it. I guess I also did this because of a sense of guilt – I was after all part of the NICM for three years.
In 2016 I started to post articles mainly about the modus operandi of the NICM. During my research for these articles, I came to realize that I did not have a clue about how bad things actually was at the NICM. I also noticed that as long as they rake in millions from complementary medicine companies, including from China, the VC continued to protect them – to this very day. I still call them ‘the untouchables’. Only in 2017 I read about Hongchi Xiao being extradited from the UK to Australia regarding the death of 6yo boy, and when I read the article the name of the clinic rang a bell. I’ve heard these names before, probably during meetings at the NICM. Upon investigating this tragedy, I came to realize that my former employer was intricately involved in this tragic death but also that this is a complex issue with many role players and there is bound to be more revelations in the near future.
So here is the sequence of events from my perspective (if anyone have more info please let me know.)
2011 – A MoU was signed between Tasly Healtpac and the NICM which states that the NICM will provide “Assistance in the development of an Integrative Care Model: to assist the Tasly Healthpac Centre of Excellence in Integrative medicine so that its structure aims to integrate TCM and western medical diagnostics and treatments in an integrated, patient centred way.”
April 2015 – the TCM slapping therapy death occurred at Tasly Healthpac, Sydney. The slapping therapist continues to provide workshops around the world.
April 2016: Alan Bensoussan (director of NICM), Dr Ven Tan (director of Tasly Healthpac) and Jillian Skinner (NSW minister for health) jumps on a plane to China to find money to help integrate TCM with modern healthcare in Australia (here is travel itinerary) . This is now after they have integrated TCM with modern healthcare which lead to this boy’s death the year before. And they are all aware of this tragedy and in addition were warned by myself and others about the dangers of misleading the public in this way!!
October 2016 – Danielle Carr-Gomm, a 71-year-old diabetic, dies suddenly during a weekend retreat run by Mr Xiao in south-west England.
August 2017 – Hongchi Xiao is extradited to Australia to stand trial
September 2018 – the parents of the deceased sue the clinic (Tasly Healthpac), Dr Ven Tan (director of the clinic) but unfortunately not for Prof Alan Bensoussan (director of NICM)
November 2018 – The trial begins against Hongchi Xiao
December 2018 – The parents are acquitted of any wrongdoing
16 October 2019 – Following an investigation the Crown Prosecution Service has given Wiltshire Police (UK) permission to charge Mr Xiao with gross negligence manslaughter.
21 October 2019 – Honchi Xiao is found guilty of manslaughter in Australia.
12 December 2019 – A sentencing hearing will take place.
13 December 2019- Sentencing will take place.
I am unsure what happened with the case against the clinic and Dr Ven Tan, maybe they have reached a settlement of some sort? (if anyone knows please let me know). Now looking at all of this, I cannot help but feel that sending Hongchi Xiao to prison, which is the right thing to do, is anything other than treating a symptom. Yes, this man must be removed from society, but it is important to address the cause of this dangerous quackery. Part of the cause is that many universities, such as Western Sydney University, increasingly abuse science to enrich themselves by promoting quackery – it is easy money. This needs to be addressed urgently.
I was actually expecting Prof Alan Bensoussan to attend the court case, even to defend Hongchi Xiao. Reason being, he did so before. Back in 2007 he was a character witness for his TCM business partner who was send to jail after being caught in possession of rhino horn. Yes, in their universe rhino horn is a highly effective medicine in the same way that slapping therapy is a highly effective treatment.
Maybe one day the tide will turn and a thorough investigation of the NICM’s involvement will be conducted. But let’s celebrate this small victory first, and let’s see what happens with the slapping therapist on Friday (update: I’ve just been told that the sentencing hearing has been set down for December 12 and that he will be sentenced on December 13).