The Universal Medicine cult has a thing for consent forms. Victims of Esoteric Breast Massage are asked to sign one; cult chakrapuncturist, Neil Ringe, asks his clients to sign a consent form for Esoteric chakrapuncture and Esoteric ‘psychology’ and participants of UM workshops are asked not only for consent but to provide details of their medical histories as well. Why? What’s so dangerous or invasive about gentle breath meditation and sacred Esoteric healing that would require consent? Why would a workshop consent form request detailed medical information? What goes on at UniMed workshops that necessitates the declaration of one’s HIV status? Why are a bunch of ‘healers’ with zero qualifications collecting private medical information? How do they use it and how do they store it? Importantly, how do these extremely questionable practices align with Australian privacy laws?
Consent forms are usually used for medical procedures or other activities involving a degree of invasiveness and risk. ‘Informed Consent’ is the accepted practice for obtaining consent in Australia and other first world countries.
Informed consent is a phrase often used in law to indicate that the consent a person gives meets certain minimum standards. As a literal matter, in the absence of fraud, it is redundant. An informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action. In order to give informed consent, the individual concerned must have adequate reasoning faculties and be in possession of all relevant facts at the time consent is given.
As we know, Universal Medicine has serious problems with facts. Esoteric Breast Massage was initially packaged as a treatment for gynaecological disorders; claims which are no longer found in the advertising. EBM publicity was more specific about what it doesn’t do than what it does, assuring recipients Serge never touched anyone’s breast, no one ever claimed it cured cancer, it’s not really massage and there’s minimal breast contact. The cult omitted informing patients they’re consenting to indoctrination with sexist stereotypes and body negative imagery, the massages have no verifiable therapeutic affect, there’s no evidence anyone has received ‘imposts’ from male objectification, let alone had them cleared by EBM, and that they’re habit forming. Nor are recipients told the practitioners are not qualified to treat gynaecological and breast disorders, they’re not qualified as counsellors, let alone sexual abuse counsellors, and are not entitled to take gynaecological and personal histories, particularly when the purpose is targeting clients with relationship difficulties or who are victims of sexual abuse.
Similarly, Neil Ringe, doesn’t inform patients chakrapuncture was invented by an ex bankrupt from Maroubra who claims to be Da Vinci reincarnated. Nor that there is zero evidence of chakrapuncture’s existence before Serge cooked it up, the cult doesn’t bother teaching infection control, and the modality has no verifiable therapeutic affect. Esoteric psychology, we’ve surmised, is Neil’s morbid penchant for making people feel worse, usually by telling them their illness is a result of heinous deeds they committed in hypothetical past lives.
However, the piece de resistance is the Workshop Consent form, described by a friend with a medico-legal background as a ‘shocker’. It’s loaded with disclaimers and bogus consent boxes to tick, but the real cause for concern is the specific questions about medical history, including patients’ HIV and Hepatitis B status, and mental illness. The cult states on the form the Benhayon clan are not qualified to treat mental illness, but fails to state they’re not qualified to treat anything at all, and have no reason to be taking medical histories or any other private details.
If the cult was wanting to issue disclaimers about practitioners’ lack of qualifications and the mental health risks of participating in UM events and ‘healings’, they don’t need to collect private medical information to do so.
It’s important anyone who signs up for UniMed workshops, events or treatments understands their rights and understands the nature of Informed Consent. The cult disregards both, in breach of Australian Privacy laws.
The Australian Privacy Act
Australia has Privacy laws is to prevent patients being discriminated against on the basis of their medical or health conditions, and to prevent exploitation by unscrupulous operators. When I came across the workshop consent form, I made a call to the Office of the Australian Privacy Commissioner, and was told that for medical information to be taken, the health service provider is required to inform the person of the reasons they are collecting the information, how it will be used, who it may be shared with, under what circumstances it would be shared, and how it will be stored.
From the My Privacy, My Choice Brochure
The Privacy Act 1988 now includes ten National Privacy Principles or NPPs. These principles set the minimum standard that health service providers must abide by when they collect, use, disclose and store your health information.
Your new privacy rights mean:
you should be told about what happens to your health information
you have more choice and control over your information
you can ask to see what is in your health record and, if you think it is wrong, you can ask for it to be corrected
you should be told why and when a health service provider may need to share your information, for example to ensure you get quality treatment and care.
Which health services are covered by the Privacy Act?
Any private sector organisation that assesses or records information about your health:
Any organisation that maintains or improves your health or that dispenses prescription or medicinal preparations. This includes services in the private sector such as:
Doctors Pharmacists Gyms Naturopaths Dentists Masseurs Private hospitals Chiropractors Disability services Physios Osteopaths Counsellors Child care services Social Workers Nurses Psychologists
The Privacy Act does not cover your health information which is held by State or Territory public hospitals or clinics…
Usually, when a health service provider needs to collect, use or disclose your health information, they will need your consent.
To give consent you need to understand what will happen to your information, so you need clear advice from your provider about what they want to do. You must be able to make your own decisions about whether you agree…
Use and Disclosure
Your health information may be shared between health service providers involved in your treatment and care. Generally, this should only happen in ways you would reasonably expect. For example, if you agree to have a blood test or X-ray, your doctor will need to tell the pathologist or radiologist your relevant health details.
Your information may also be needed for other things, such as managing the accounts of the health service or for the health service provider seeking a refund from the Medicare or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schemes. The provider should let you know, in general terms, how they will use your information, so you know what to expect.
The devious Universal Medicine Workshop Consent Form
The form clearly shows the cult attempting to get as much private information as possible for their own devious purposes.
Major life incidents – in asking customers to detail ‘major physical/emotional/mental incidents’, the cult is seeking disclosure of sexual abuse, relationship or family breakdown, addictions, mental breakdowns and the like. All of which they can use to sell habit forming Esoteric healing services.
Symptoms and illness – The cult uses all other medical information similarly, for marketing purposes, and their most common targets are people with eating disorders, gynaecological disorders and cancer. Charlatans often target cancer patients, because people with cancer and their loved ones will often try ANY alternative treatments. Benhayon is also planning on opening Esoteric aged care facilities – another captive market, which explains his targeting of people with degenerative disease.
HIV & Hepatitis status – there is no reason for the cult to be asking about HIV status at any worskhop, and it appears the Benhayons are not only oblivious to the rights of patients, but the serious regulations protecting HIV positive people. HIV positive people are only required by law to ensure they don’t transmit the disease, otherwise (depending on the state, and only with regard to sexual activity) they are not required to disclose their status to anyone, let alone an intrusive money-grubbing cult. Even if the consent form was for a chakrapuncture workshop (it isn’t) where skin penetration is taking place, the cult should be teaching and practicing infection control first and foremost, which renders the need for HIV or hepatitis status disclosure redundant. Again the cult treats people with HIV as a marketing opportunity, exploiting suffering and life threatening illness to sell the ‘Livingness’ Death Package.
If the cult doesn’t immediately desist from taking medical information from participants, I’ll consider asking the HIV lobby groups to out them as well.
Feigned medical legitimacy – in asking for a list of medications the follower has been prescribed but is not taking, the Benhayons give (a) the impression they are pro conventional medicine, and (b) the false impression they have a right to medical information.
Consent to touching – no doubt this is damage control since images of Serge Benhayon handling genitals and marketing it as ‘healing’ for sexual abuse found their way to the internet. At least now, the cult is seeking a semblance of informed consent, but to date, any number of cult followers say Serge didn’t touch them inappropriately, but they never explicitly deny he touched their genitals. They’d have to get off Planet Serge to realize his molestations aren’t an Esoteric ‘blessing’.
Another Esoteric paradox. The cult is at pains to point out they aren’t offering ‘any alternative to medical treatment’ but they’re eager to gather detailed private medical information.
Mental health disclosures – Again the Benhayons have no reason to gather this sensitive information. They can’t assess or treat mental illness, but they can very well trigger it. Knowing the kind of trance induction and thought reform techniques used by UM, I’ve seen for myself how they trigger psychological breakdowns, including psychotic episodes. The gathering of this information is perhaps an attempt to screen out troublesome candidates, while the bogus consent deters those harmed from making official complaints.
False medical endorsement – any GP or medical practitioner who knows anything about UM would not clear anyone to participate in UM events. They, like me and a growing group of concerned parties, would ask why the heck the cult is gathering medical information. Another smokescreen giving an appearance of medical endorsement.
Legalese – the appearance of legality in the form is a blatant intimidation tactic, and an attempt to deceive victims into thinking they are making informed consent. Just as a patient can’t reasonably consent if they are not given the facts about how their information is used and why, It’s impossible for a participant to ask questions about information that is withheld. In addition, the cult’s deliberately difficult process for withdrawing consent is intimidating to those experiencing misgivings and who lack knowledge of their rights and the confidence to assert them. The official tone of the form gives victims a false sense of UM’s professionalism, that UM practitioners are acting in patients’ best interests and that the Benhayons have designed the form in compliance with the law.
Targeting the vulnerable and deterring complaints
Universal Medicine consent forms have two purposes. The consent itself is bogus because the forms don’t state what participants are consenting to. Most people who sign will think they have signed away their rights, which they have not, and the whole deception is designed to deter recipients from making official complaints.
The other purpose of the form is to gather medical information, which health services are required to treat with confidentiality and only use for qualified treatment. The cult can exploit it to market their services, and worse, can use to discriminate against, stigmatize or intimidate students.
My advice to anyone presented with such a form, is to refuse to disclose medical information. Whether or not you sign is immaterial since the consent is not informed. It’s guaranteed the cult would still allow you to pay up and attend.
You are entitled to make a complaint if you feel Universal Medicine has misused your private information by sharing it in any way, or to intimidate, shame or persecute you, or to market their sham therapies to you. They should not have your medical information at all.
From the Office of the Australian Information Commission website:
What you can do if you think your privacy has been breached.
- Try to resolve the problem directly with your health service provider. Write a letter to them or send an email, explain what has happened and what you would like to see done.
- After 30 days, if you have had no reply, or the response you get from the provider is not satisfactory, you can complain to the Privacy Commissioner.
Sometimes, your complaint may need to be dealt with by your State or Territory’s Health Complaints Commissioner, Health Services Commissioner or State Privacy Commissioner. For instance, when your complaint involves a public hospital.
Office of the Privacy Commissioner Hotline: 1300 363 992 TTY: 1800 620 241
Web Site: www.privacy.gov.au
I submitted the Workshop Consent form to the office of the Privacy Commissioner, who told me they can act on it if a complainant comes forward and tells them their privacy has been breached. They also told me anyone can make a complaint on another person’s behalf. If you are concerned about repercussions from UM, you might also complain directly to the Commission. If in doubt, call them.
The penalties for privacy breaches can include an order for the respondent to cease breaches of the Act, redress damage suffered and pay compensation. Such orders can then be enforced by the Federal Court.
ADDENDUM: As expected, the Universal Medicine cult removed the consent form from their website, but we’ve made it available for viewing at this link, and below is a screenshot showing the original URL (https://study.universalmedicine.com.au/system/files/public/downloads/UM-CONSENT-WORKSHOP.pdf ).