An investigation by Fair Go has led the Ministry of Health to issue a warning to a man claiming to be a doctor.
The man concerned is Machi Mannu who co-founded Marvel Health. Its website boasts of clinics around the country and a headquarters in Christchurch.
The clinics use biomagnetic resonance modelling (BRM), with the website claiming that anyone with a health problem can have a scan to "reveal the exact illness and its causes", and that BRM is "equivalent to 50 blood tests, multiple CT scans, MRI scans, full allergy testing, toxicology and microbiology with more accurate information than any traditional forms of testing".
An appointment lasts 45 minutes and costs $550. The patient is then offered natural therapies to treat their condition. Fair Go is aware that the cost of these can be more than $1000.
Complaints about the claims of what the scanning can do had already been made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in 2021. The ASA found the adverts that were published in newspapers were unsubstantiated and ordered Marvel Health to remove them, which it did.
The complaint to Fair Go wasn't about the treatment itself but rather the legitimacy of Mannu to claim he was a doctor and the statement on the website that there was a "team of doctors and specialists" involved with the clinic.
The issue was brought to Fair Go's attention by Helen Duckworth, who's a librarian by trade.
Her friend Sue had considered going to the clinic for help with detox after chemotherapy. Sue has aggressive ovarian cancer and wanted to be certain of the credentials of whoever might treat her. She couldn't find any information to satisfy her on the Marvel Health website so she asked Duckworth to investigate.
Duckworth established Mannu had received a degree in Nigeria and appeared to run other clinics overseas, but couldn't confirm whether or not he was a doctor, so she came to Fair Go for help.
A covert operation established that Mannu did claim directly to patients that he had practised as a doctor overseas. Yet Fair Go was able to confirm with the medical councils of the UK, Spain and New Zealand that he had never registered in any country, and therefore couldn't work as a GP or as a doctor in a hospital in any of these places.
Fair Go raised these issues directly with Mannu. He told Fair Go he would refer anyone with cancer to other providers.
He confirmed he'd completed his medical training in Nigeria 20 years ago, gaining a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery under the name Machim Enyiegbulam, and that his only work in the UK was part of his training.
He admitted he'd never practised as a registered doctor anywhere. Mannu said this didn't affect his ability to call himself a doctor in New Zealand because he was working outside of traditional medicine.
However, the Ministry of Health has a different point of view.
It sets out clear guidelines that if a person isn't registered as a doctor here then they can't practise as a doctor, or even imply that they are a doctor.
A professor of ethics at the University of Auckland, Tim Dare, explains that it's because an unregistered doctor could be "miles out of date" with current medical practice. Doctors in this country have to engage in ongoing training and education. It's now 20 years since Mannu completed his degree.
Registration also gives a system of checks and balances as the Medical Council is responsible for judging the competence and diligence of every doctor. Dare adds that patients are often vulnerable when their health is deteriorating and "aren't in a position to judge a doctor's ability for themselves".
After Fair Go raised the issue, the Ministry of Health contacted Mannu directly to warn him that he wasn't in a position to use the term doctor on his website or when talking to his patients. Mannu hasn't supplied any further comment to Fair Go since receiving this warning.
Both Sue and Duckworth are relieved to know the Ministry of Health does take action when necessary.
They have no problem with the practice of alternative therapies and believe Mannu should be able to continue running his business.
However, they're glad he can no longer say he's a doctor as they believe it gives him a certain kudos and leads people to believe his medical knowledge is up-to-date.