Witnesses testified in court yesterday that a naturopath named Mitra Javanmardi gave Matern an intravenous injection of magnesium at which point he started feeling ill.
His wife, Denise Matern, 82, said he felt hot, then cold, and began to vomit. In addition, he became disoriented, had trouble walking and couldn't speak after the injection. Javanmardi reportedly advised him to drink a smoothie.
Matern returned home but continued to decline. He was taken to a nearby hospital in the middle of the night where he died on June 13, 2008.
Mrs. Matern said her husband was being treated by a cardiologist and was having problems breathing due to fluid buildup in his lungs after heart surgery. The couple decided to consult alternative medicine as a complement to his care.
A friend recommended Javanmardi, who was well-known and trusted.
"I took for granted that she was not a medical doctor, but her title began with the letters Dr., so I trusted her," Mrs. Matern said.
Sadly, Javanmardi has been fined on at least two prior occasions by Canada's College of Physicians for practicing medicine without a license, and three times for performing illegal medical acts, such as the injection that killed Matern.
"She didn't have the right to give intravenous treatments and we'll show the proof," said Prosecutor Helen di Salvo during the trial.
Javanmardi's defense team said the Materns were aware that Javanmardi was not a medical doctor but came to her anyway because they didn't trust modern medical treatments.
The Materns story is the perfect example of why a person should be wary of alternative medicine. Like Javanmardi, most naturopaths are not medical doctors, and receive their education from schools accredited by the industry, which means they are essentially policing themselves.
In the case of naturopaths in the U.S., the National Council Against Healthcare Fraud (NCAHF) reports that a "doctor of naturopathy" (N.D.) or "doctor of naturopathic medicine" (N.M.D.) can receive their credentials from four full-time schools of naturopathy and several nonaccredited correspondence schools.
These are not medical schools, and some of them have very loose standards. For example, one correspondence school, the Progressive Universal Life Church, offered a 'Ph.D. in Naturopathy' for $250 plus "life experience" with no coursework, according to the NCAHF. Another non-accredited school offered a 'Naturopathic Practitioner' diploma to eligible individuals who completed a 15-month program of home-study plus a dozen weekend seminars.
These are not the kind of people who should be giving intravenous injections to seriously ill patients.
Training at the full-time schools follows a pattern similar to that of chiropractic schools: two years of basic science courses and two years of clinical work. Three years of pre-professional college work are required for admission.
Naturopaths are licensed as independent practitioners in 14 states in the U.S. - Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington, and the District of Columbia, and can legally practice in a few others. However, efforts are underway to press for licensure in the remaining states.
"Graduates of the four-year schools assert that licensing is needed to protect the public from unqualified practitioners," writes the NCAHF. "However, the existing naturopathic licensing boards have done little or nothing to protect the public from naturopathy's widespread quackery."
Click here for a more indepth explanation of naturopathy.
CTV.CA is reporting that Mitra Javanmardi is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal negligence in the death of Roger Matern.