Clinic failed woman who died after treatment on experimental drug
Last updated [19:08], August 10 2015
A patient at the iBoga clinic in Kaitaia has died following the administration of an experimental drug Ibogaine.
A clinic administering experimental treatment for drug addiction has been labelled a “sloppy operation” after a woman was found dead on her third day of treatment.
Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill has found a GP at Te Whare Rongoa in Kaitaia, his assistant, and Iboga New Zealand Ltd in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights after the woman’s death on June 30 2013.
Te Whare Rongoa is an addiction treatment centre run by GP Cornelius van Dorp and his wife, Anah.
Names in the report have been withheld.
The 45-year-old woman had contacted the clinic, who offered treatment for drug addictions with ibogaine – an experimental anti-addiction drug derived from the root bark of an African shrub.
According to Medsafe, ibogaine is used in low doses by indigenous western African people to combat fatigue, hunger and thirst, and in higher doses, as a sacrament in religious rituals. It can cause sudden cardiac death in humans, up to several days after ingestion.
The drug is an unapproved prescription-only medication in New Zealand.
The woman had been taking various drugs since she was a teenager. At the time of her death, she was taking intravenous drugs, including morphine.
None of the email correspondence between the GP’s assistant and the woman in the lead up to her treatment mentioned the risks of ibogaine treatment, or that deaths had been associated with its use.
Upon reviewing the woman’s blood tests, ECG (heart monitoring), a questionnaire and drug history, she was deemed an appropriate client for ibogaine treatment. She did not sign a compulsory consent form.
After missing her first flight, the woman rescheduled her arrival time and was found to be “very, very drug affected” on the next plane. The GP’s assistant was told to check her bags for concealed drugs when she arrived at the clinic.
Treatment still went ahead.
She was administered four doses of ibogaine on the first day of treatment and received her last dose at 7am the following day.
The GP then went overseas and left sole responsibility for monitoring of the woman with his assistant. The assistant checked the woman five times on the second day of treatment.
At 6am the following morning, the assistant went into the woman’s room to turn off her heater and found her dead in the same position she had been in since the previous afternoon.
Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill said in his decision the GP did not provide the woman with enough information about the risks and side effects of ibogaine, or of its experimental nature. His monitoring of the woman was “regrettably lax”, Hill said.
He also criticised the assistant’s immediate response to the woman’s death, in calling the GP – who was en route overseas – and then calling 111.
“The impression is that it was a sloppy operation with little regard for professional standards,” Hill said.
The GP is not practising in New Zealand. Hill recommended the Medical Council review his competence if he reapplied.
Iboga New Zealand Ltd, which owned the clinic, was found responsible for the organisational failings and advised to recommended to review aspects of its practice.
The GP and his assistant had both apologised to the woman’s family.