‘The doctors are out to get Mrs Snook!’
- Patricia Blundell of East Fremantle, ‘The West Australian’, May 26, 1990.
In late 1983, aged seventy, Dorothy Snook moved with her daughter Barbara to Peppertree House on a 24-acre property in an area known as Doctor’s Hill in Northam, the town where she had been born, and close by to where she spent her childhood on her family’s farm in Koorda.
Peppertree House was a large residence with a swimming pool and two acres of almond trees which was no doubt a selling point for Mrs Snook. The farm ran sheep, and fruit and vegetables grew in the farm’s gardens. Perhaps inspired by the Yungborn-type of retreat Alice Caporn ran in Nedlands, where Dorothy Snook had been nursed back to health, Mrs Snook used a guest wing adjoining the homestead to operate as an “Institute of Natural Healing and Private Hospital for Alternative Medicines”. Here she offered services “for outpatients and live-in patients for Cancer Control, Arthritis and Asthmatics” at her Northam property – with approval from the Northam Town Council.
Mrs Snook was very proud of her newly-expanded Radiant Health Centre and considered it a unique facility in Australia. Just as Benedict Lust regarded Yungborn as his life’s achievement with the establishment of her Northam naturopathy operations, Dorothy Snook declared that “at last, after forty years of earnest endeavour, I have now achieved my purpose for living”. She shared her sense of achievement in an (undated) application for a BHP award for excellence.
The guest facilities (pictured above) are described in her Radiant Health Centre brochure as: “All rooms are private and each set of two share a toilet and bath. All guest rooms open onto the private swimming pool and patio where patients may relax and soak up the healing rays of the sun. Each room has a three-foot bed, television set, built in robes, lounge chairs and all the comforts of home.”
Twenty-four hour supervision was provided for all patients. Meals, featuring fruits and vegetables grown in the farm’s gardens, were served to patients in their own rooms or, if the patient felt well enough, in the “spacious dining area” where they could socialise with other patients or watch television in the communal lounge room.
Upon arrival, clients would be examined by a qualified local medical doctor who would remain on call for the length of the patient’s stay to ensure that “at no time will the patient’s health be put at risk”.
Individual programmed diets were developed for each patient, and guests were offered daily juice therapy, breathing exercises, sunshine therapy, cold water therapy, physiotherapy and colonics. Iridology consultations and therapeutic massages were provided.
Mrs Snook claimed in her brochure some success working with “cancer, leukaemia, arthritis, RSI, migraines, colitis, asthma, gallstones and many other diseases”. However, she offered no guarantees but believed it was “through natural living that you are taught how to heal yourself…virtually all diseases will respond favourable to this type of treatment.”
Her greatest desire was to help chronically ill patients find rest between bouts of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or other treatment. Her brochure states:
A lot of people with serious illness, such as cancer and arthritis, try to have them cured with drugs or operations… Treatment of this type puts the body in a debilitated state where it is difficult for it to heal itself. Oftentimes, patients are sent home from hospital and told there is nothing more medical science can do to help them. Many of these people are so weak they can barely walk. To help these people I opened the Radiant Health Centre in Northam, Western Australia.
She had once been given a similar diagnosis and survived – and she had helped others to survive.
I have researched Mrs Snook’s life, talked to her former clients and reviewed testimonials for her work. I have no doubt Mrs Snook was genuine in her desire to help others. But she had her critics and was blindly naïve in not fully comprehending the risks she exposed herself to by offering in-house care for terminally-ill patients.
Although Mrs Snook went to lengths to establish good relations with local doctors, inviting them out to inspect her facilities, and referring all her new clients to them, over time communication between her and the medical fraternity had broken down.
While Mrs Snook had some supporters amongst the medical profession, she also had some influential enemies. No doubt, her forthright nature and stridently-held views about diet – which were considered extremely radical at the time – and her willingness to criticise medical processes and pharmaceuticals undoubtedly inflamed relations. The certainty of her beliefs was part of her success. She believed fear and doubt must be driven from the mind for healing to occur:
So often the patient hears the doctors’ verdict as a criminal hears his death sentence. Arise, dear soul, because you have just started to live and what you can do with the human body will be a living miracle even to you. So let us get started on a programme of good house-cleaning and see what Mother Nature is going to do for you…
But this strength was to also prove a weakness. The certainty with which she held her views impressed many people but she would also be criticised for this.
Mrs Snook’s children describe their mother as “outspoken about what she believed in”. She had an intense manner and several of Mrs Snook’s former clients described her as “terrifying” if her rules were not followed. Daughter Sylvia comments:
If people hadn’t stuck to her diet, they were out that door. She wouldn’t have anything to do with them. They got a good talking to. If they decided to continue with her, they had to toe the line. No-one wanted to come back a second time saying they hadn’t stuck to the diet. Mum worked with so many sick people that she didn’t have time for those who weren’t really committed. It might sound harsh but on the other hand, a lot of people told us that “if it wasn’t for your mother’s strength I wouldn’t have got through.
Mrs Snook’s eldest son Roy adds: “Mum had discovered this knowledge when she was really ill and managed to cure herself. She was labelled a crank but now in all the big supermarkets what do you see? Boost Juice bars, and sprouts for sale in the vegetable aisle.”
As Mrs Snook’s daughter Sylvia recalls: “they were really waiting to get stuck into her. Somebody’s loved one had passed away on her diet. It was going on.”