Woman dies in drug rehab

By Kathryn Powley

Husband wants answers about treatment

Anah and Cornelius Van Dorp. Photo / APN
Anah and Cornelius Van Dorp. Photo / APN

The grieving husband of an Italian-born farmer who died of a suspected heart attack in a controversial rehab clinic is demanding answers about her death.

Teodora Palmieri-Chuck, 45, of Wairarapa, died at Kaitaia's Iboga Clinic while undergoing a controversial ibogaine drug addiction treatment.

Ibogaine has been hailed as a miracle way to break drug dependency after only one dose, but concerns have been raised overseas about possible risks, including to heart function.

Palmieri-Chuck's husband, Peter Palmieri-Clark, was told she suffered a heart attack after ibogaine treatment.

"The way it's happened is disgusting. She was 20 years on a substance that she was trying to kick, then she goes to rehab and this happens. I don't understand that.

"They've rung and said they were sorry and all that, but all I want is to have Teodora back. If she still was on that stuff she'd be fine.

"She was a kind, loving person, honest, beautiful heart, she'd help everyone and anyone who asked - and now I've got a guardian angel."

Born in Bologna, Palmieri-Chuck arrived in New Zealand in her early teens with her mother Vittoria Michelini, who died last August.

She and Peter had known each other 25 years and were married on October 15, 2011. They lived on Kahuiti, her sheep and beef block east of Masterton.

The Ibogaine Clinic, part of the Herb Shack and Te Whare Rongoa House of Medicine, is run by Dr Cornelius Van Dorp and his wife Anah Van Dorp, who are in Israel at present. He told the Herald on Sunday via email they had done about 50 ibogaine treatments since February 2011 "to date with excellent results in terms of drug and alcohol detoxification".

"My wife Anah and I have been to ibogaine provider training on two occasions, October 2010 in Israel, and October 2012 in Vancouver. We can't talk about the recent death until a full inquest and inquiry has been completed, but can let you know that we have decided to stop ibogaine treatments until this is completed."

Dunedin independent researcher Geoff Noller said ibogaine was a powerful psychotropic drug which brought on a dream-like state and was apparently able to reduce cravings for weeks.

Medsafe classified ibogaine as a prescription medicine in November 2009, but it is an "unapproved medicine", meaning doctors must go to extra lengths to discuss the drug with patients and must inform Medsafe if they prescribe it.


What is Ibogaine?

Ibogaine is extracted from the root bark of the Central West African rain forest shrub Tabernanthe iboga. In low doses it is a stimulant, in high doses a hallucinogen. It is reported to cause a "dream state" within one to three hours that lasts four to eight hours, followed by a "personal reflective" stage for the following eight to 20 hours, ending in a "residual stimulation" stage that may last up to 72 hours.

- Herald on Sunday

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