Sydney Naturopath Sent To Jail Over Liquid-only Diet
A disgraced Sydney naturopath who put a breastfeeding mother on a liquid-only diet, which nearly starved her eight-month-old baby to death, will spend at least seven months in jail.
Marilyn Pauline Bodnar last August pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, in failing to provide for the boy in 2015.
The 61-year-old was sentenced in the NSW District Court on Thursday to a maximum 14 months prison term.
Although the maximum penalty is a five-year jail term, Judge Peter Berman handed down a non-parole period of seven months for the "well-intentioned but seriously misguided advice".
Bodnar deeply regrets her actions and has vowed to never work with children again, her defence team says.
Lawyer Rick Mitry said the Leppington naturopath was paraded in front of media cameras by police during her July 2015 arrest and has since been "trolled and bullied on social media".
"She feels crushed, she has been punished," he said.
In May 2015 the child was admitted to Westmead Hospital near death with severe malnourishment and developmental issues.
He weighed just 6.5 kilograms, was emaciated and severely dehydrated, had sunken eyes, dangerously low sodium levels and flexed hands and feet.
The mother had sought health treatment advice from Bodnar about her son's eczema and was told to stop conventional medical and dermatological treatments, the court previously heard.
The former nurse recommended a raw food diet and eventually water only for the woman, who was exclusively breastfeeding the infant.
At one point Bodnar modified the water-only rule by adding watermelon for three days.
Crown prosecutor Tony McCarthy said Bodnar ignored the boy's weight-loss warning signs due to a "blind allegiance" to her alternative medicine ideology.
"This blind allegiance was the cause of the child nearly dying," he said.
He noted Bodnar's "high degree of recklessness", the baby's extreme vulnerability and the fact that the child was days away from death when admitted to hospital.
In 2016 the mother, a university-trained midwife at a Sydney hospital, pleaded guilty to failing to provide for her baby and was given a 14-month good behaviour bond after agreeing to give evidence against Bodnar at her then-expected trial.
Bodnar had a grievous bodily harm charge dropped last August following her own guilty plea.