Eric Gandon, a naturopath from Indre-et-Loire, was indicted on Thursday for manslaughter, abuse of weakness, endangering the lives of others and illegal exercise of the professions of doctor and pharmacist, said the Tours prosecutor in a statement.
The charges relate to the death of a 44-year-old woman in 2021 during one of Gandon’s naturopathy courses.
Gandon, 58, has a large YouTube following but in 2020 he hired a chateau in Noyant-de-Touraine (Indre-et-Loire) in which he staged courses for paying guests which involved prolonged fasting and ingesting only water.
“These training courses invoiced several hundreds, even thousands of euros, not including accommodations costs, for around twenty participants, over durations of one to six weeks”, prosecutor Grégoire Dulin told French media.
Following the death of the 44-year-old woman in August 2021, a judicial investigation was opened and the local préfecture suspended further courses from Gandon.
The investigation has now passed to the Office central pour la répression des violences aux personnes (central office for the repression of violence against the person), which has identified four other possible victims, two of whom have subsequently died.
Gandon’s son, who assisted with the fasting courses and his father’s YouTube channel, has also been charged with the illegal exercise of the profession of doctor or pharmacist. If convicted, the pair face up to three years in jail and fines of €375,000.
Following news of the charges, France’s citizenship minister issued a warning about the dangers of unlicensed and unregulated alternative health practitioners, which she said had increased significantly during the pandemic.
Sonia Backès said: “It is essential that the French are better informed about the significant risks to their health when they participate in this type of training course supervised by charlatans who take advantage of their fragility to enrich themselves.
“I understand the distress that some people may feel when faced with their medical situation, but it is essential that they do not abandon traditional care, which is the only way to cure them.
“This work of raising public awareness must be carried out in a collective manner. Therefore, I call on the media and digital platforms to show the greatest responsibility in this endeavour.”
She also announced that the Interior Ministry will organise the first conference on alternative practitioners in order to draw up a strategy to deal with the issue. In France, although doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals are tightly regulated, alternative practitioners generally have no State registration or licensing system.
The case comes just a few months after the medical platform Doctolib announced that it would no longer list naturopaths on its website or app.