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NCAHF News, November/December 1989

Volume 12, Issue #6

EFFORT TO ESTABLISH A FEDERAL COUNCIL
ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH HAS DUBIOUS MOTIVES

Health food trade groups are backing legislation to establish a Federal clearinghouse for information that is published on nutrition and health, to be called the Federal Council on Nutrition and Health. The idea seems laudable until one learns that what the health foods trade groups insist upon is that the Council not be permitted to evaluate the validity of any articles it collects. In other words, pseudonutrition would be given the same treatment as nutrition science. This would enable those who profit from dubious nutrition products and services to gain status for their misinformation by being able to state that its source is an agency of the Federal government. People who believe that the government should only advance sound consumer health information will want to work to defeat this aspect of the legislation.

GARY NULL

Tom Monte profiles radio personality, Gary Null, who he describes as "the nation's leading advocate for alternative health care and the environment," in the September, 1989, issue of East/West Journal. What emerges from Monte's description is a picture of a street-wise survivor who has become a radio broadcast demagogue. Monte says that Null arrived in New York with $67 which was "promptly stolen." Null wandered around for 3 days until he got hungry and obtained a job as a short-order cook which aroused his interest in nutrition. Null was tutored by the late(s) Paavo Airola, Adelle Davis and Carlton Fredericks. Null now markets his own vitamin line in New York and New Jersey. Null has a two-hour talk show that is broadcast by nearly 200 stations. Null's show is strictly anti-establishment. He is generally at odds with science selectively gathering evidence that supports his biases. He exploits the myths of medical conspiracies, and the alleged pharmaceutical industry control over the medical profession. He is an antifluoridationist, opposed dietetic licensure, promotes organic farming, fights vaccines and Ritalin. Monte describes Null as bordering on paranoia in his guardedness, but this may be understandable for someone who broadcasts a talk show dealing with alleged conspiracies -- such shows tend to attract weirdos. Null is also a race-walker who has set a few records for his age group (but he won't reveal his age, Monte says). To his credit, Null refuses to discuss his own personal health practices to prevent others from emulating him based upon his celebrity status.

PROMINENT CANADIAN KILLED BY "NATURE HEALER"

John Heninger, 69, wealthy founder of Heninger Toyota in Calgary, suffered from a degenerative muscle disease. Desperate for help he turned to a self-proclaimed "Qi Gong Master" for healing. Heninger willingly signed a waiver for Ying. According to his son, Brian, "It was a matter of: 'cure me or end my life, this is worth a try'." The "healer" was Hou Shu Ying, a Chinese immigrant who is a resident of Toronto, Ontario (located 2170 miles east and out-of-province; the USA equivalent of someone from New York practicing in Denver). Ying called himself a "naturopath" but is unlicensed to practice any kind of health care in Alberta; and, may not even be licensed in Ontario. [Note: An investigative team representing NCAHF's affiliate, CSICOP, tested Qi Gong practitioners during their 1988 visit to China. They found that its methods were transparently nonsensical. See The Skeptical Inquirer, Summer, 1988 (Vol.12, No.4).] The "medicine" prepared and used by Ying was a mixture of burned rice, water, sugar, and strychnine - in an unmeasured dose! Ying claimed that the concoction would "build and regenerate muscle." The tragic result of Ying's treatment was that Heninger died of respiratory paralysis shortly after ingesting the concoction on October 4, 1988.

The legal handling of the case was as shocking and inappropriate as the medicine. The police decided that Heninger's death was "accidental" and filed no charges. Judge William Pepler concluded that strychnine, coupled with Heninger's terminal disease, killed him, but failed to hold Ying responsible. Neither seemed aware of well-established legal principles that an unlawful, accidental death is manslaughter. Ying was practicing medicine without a license, and/or euthanasia (ie, cure or kill), either of which is illegal. This is another spectacular example of the convoluted thinking and legal apathy when the crime involves quackery. Calgary lawyer Fred Zinkhofer stated it succinctly when he told the provincial court: "It is clear that an unlicensed practitioner of sorts, a quack, found it very easy to practice his quackery in this province." Since Ying also claimed to be a "naturopath," this incident revived the political issue of whether or not naturopaths should be licensed in Alberta.

In 1983, Scot Olson, a licensed naturopath inserted a balloon up the nose of a 20-month-old girl to treat an abnormally small skull. The infant strangled when the balloon slipped and lodged in its throat. The naturopath was found guilty of criminal negligence. Justice John Waite characterized the treatment procedure as "outright quackery" and sentenced Olson to one day in jail and a $1,000 fine! (Apparently, that is the value of a child's life in Alberta!) As a result of this tragedy naturopathy was investigated and found wanting in its ability to regulate its practitioners. In 1986, Alberta rescinded its Naturopathic Act. Calgary naturopath Ross Skaken said that he as his colleagues (there are ten naturopaths in Alberta) have been pressuring the government to re-establish a naturopathic licensing act. He says that this would prevent people like Ying from coming there calling themselves naturopaths. Thus, the killing of Heninger in 1988 by an unlicensed naturopath is now offered as a good reason to re-establish licensure overlooking the fact that naturopathy lost its legal standing due to its failure to regulate itself in the death of the child killed in 1983. What is frightening is that Alberta legal thinking just might go along with such reasoning based upon its recent performance! Officials in the Canadian province of Alberta have their priorities badly twisted--they are supposed to protect their citizenry from quackery, not protect quacks from legal penalties.

FLORIDA LAW PROHIBITS USE OF BOGUS DIPLOMAS

A new law became effective in Florida on October 1, 1989. The Fraudulent Practice Bill (CS/HB1575) prohibits misrepresentation of association with, or academic standing at, any post-secondary educational institution through the use of false documentation. The law also makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to claim either orally or in writing to possess an academic degree or the title associated with such a degree unless one has been awarded by an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Use of the title "Doctor" is also prohibited unless it is based upon legitimate credentials. This law was initiated by Clara H. Lawhead, MS, RD, President of NCAHF's Florida Chapter.

NEW YORK LAW RESTRICTS USE OF TITLE "DOCTOR"

New York State General Business Law ("Advertising--Use of Title 'Doctor'," Chapter 65, S.3440, A.5376) has been revised to state that any person who uses the title "doctor" in making representations for the purpose of inducing...the purchase of drugs, devices or cosmetic...or other goods or services intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, prevent or cure any human disease, pain, injury, deformity, nutritional deficiency or physical condition ...shall conspicuously disclose the profession in which he or she is licensed ...where no license is required ...such persons shall conspicuously disclose the major subject in which the degree was earned and the name of the institution that issued the degree. ...if it shall appear to the satisfaction of the court...that the defendant is in fact assuming, adoption or using such a title...or use of such title may deceive or mislead the public, an injunction may be issued...enjoining and restraining such actual or threatened violation without requiring proof that any person has in fact been deceived or misled thereby." The new statute took effect on July 21, 1989.

Comment: The foregoing is another excellent example of good consumer protection law that NCAHF would like to see in every jurisdiction. A copy of the revised section (350-b) with its complete wording is available upon request from either the main office or the resource center. Please enclosed a SSAE and $1.

NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT FOOD ALLERGIES?

The misdiagnosis and mistreatment of food allergies continues to be one of the most abused areas by quackery. Food allergies may be real or imagined. A new report by the American Council on Science and Health provides accurate, up-to-date information on the realities of food allergies. Order from: ACSH, 1995 Broadway, 16th Floor, NY, NY 10023-5860; $3 + SSAE with $.75 postage

1988 NATIONAL HEALTH FRAUD CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS

A 127-page bound set of proceedings of the 1988 National Health Fraud Conference held in Kansas City is available from the NCAHF Resource Center. Price: $25 (NCAHF members, $20) plus $2 postage & handling.

DENTAL AMALGAMETER MAY DUPE PATIENTS

The FDA warns that dental patients may be duped for years to come by a simple device called an "Amalgameter." The device, which is a simple battery powered ammeter that measures electrical current, purports to determine whether or not a patient's dental fillings may be causing health problems (eg, multiple sclerosis, seizures, cardiac or suicidal problems). The manufacturer and promoter of the device is Hal Huggins, DDS, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The FDA sent a regulatory letter to Huggins in 1985 informing him that his device was misbranded and that no scientific evidence supported his claim that it could be used to justify amalgam removal. A 1989 investigation found that Huggins no longer is manufacturing the amalgameter, but records show that at least 100 units were made and these may still be in use by some dentists. (FDA Consumer, 10/89).

PSYCHODYNAMICS OF NUTRITION SUPPLEMENT USE BY ELDERLY

Forty to seventy-percent of elderly Americans use nutrition supplements--some in unnecessary megadoses. What and how many supplements they take, why some do or do not take them, the potential for toxicity, how much money is spent, and much more insightful information is provided in "Predictors of nutrition supplement use in the elderly, Part I: a review of the literature." Author Nancy Cotugna, DrPH, RD, points out that gender appears to be the most significant predictive factor with women being more frequent users than men. Part II: The role of beliefs, attitude, subjective norm and intention," examines motivational factors underlying supplement use by older Americans. Dr. Cotugna reports on her own study of 195 elderly residents of four federal housing projects in Southern California. Some of the findings included that 58.5% of the subjects used supplements, spending up to 6% (avg 1%) of their monthly income; 19.4% were taking 4 or more different supplements daily. Drugstores were the most common place of purchase, but those taking single-nutrient supplements were more likely to buy at health food stores. Medical Doctors were cited most often as influencing the initiation of supplement use. This two-part series appeared in the Journal of Nutrition for the Elderly, 8:(3/4):3-33, 1989. The same issue contains a research report: "Attitudes of rural and urban elderly concerning supplement use," by Betts and Rezek. This study compared the supplement use of 30 rural with 30 urban elderly Nebraskans. 80% of subjects used supplements with an average monthly expenditure of $52 with a high of $480! The media was cited as the most common source of information in both groups (MDs 2nd, friends & relatives 3rd); misconceptions (eg, "supplementation is necessary," "food processing destroys nutrients," "honey is healthier than sugar," "health foods are healthier") played a major role in determining the extent of supplement use with the rural group holding more misconceptions. Surprisingly, the rural group also reported receiving more information from a registered dietitian.

Comment: These reports provide important insights on the psychodynamics of quackery. Misbeliefs are root causes of the success of health fraud and quackery. Soft-core quackery (ie, that which costs only money) that encourages the seemingly harmless use of unneeded supplements by fostering misconceptions and distrust of regular food or medicine most likely is a precursor to hard-core quackery (ie, that which harms health or kills). Unnecessary supplement usage is one of the most widespread forms of soft-core quackery, and the elderly are the most common targets of all forms of quackery.

DIETARY SUPPLEMENT COALITION FORMED TO FIGHT FDA

Action against illegally marketed dietary supplements has increased considerably since John M. Taylor replaced Joseph Hile as Associate Commissioner of Regulatory Affairs at FDA in 1986. In fiscal year 1988 62 regulatory letters and 22 seizures were approved. Upset by this enforcement, in January, 1989, seven supplement manufacturers launched the Dietary Supplement Coalition (DSC), a nonprofit group to defend itself against regulatory actions. Stephen Barrett, MD, describes the new organization, its participants, and specific actions FDA has taken against several of them and their products, in the Fall, 1989, issue of Priorities (pp.24-5).

Comment: It appears to NCAHF that DSC will primarily be a fund-raising organization that will make FDA's enforcement efforts more costly, thus discouraging action by a Federal agency that must operate in a climate of financial restraint. Consumers, legislators and the media need to be aware of trade groups that use their wealth to thwart consumer protection activities.

MORE ON BENVENISTE (HOMEOPATHY)

Last issue we reported that Jacques Benveniste, the French scientist who claimed to have validated one of homeopathy's fanciful theories, had been suspended for his poor science. We have been informed by Elie Shneour, a principal in the investigation of the Benveniste affair, that the report we summarized was inaccurate. The facts are that INSERM recommended Benveniste's suspension and a cease and desist order on his controversial research. Benveniste was granted a reprieve and reappointed to a standard 4-year term. Dr. Shneour points out that a chief complaint against Benveniste has been his continued use of the media to make his case. However, Shneour says that Benveniste does not claim that his results support homeopathy--only "jubilant but uninformed homeopathic groups have done so." Shneour believes that Benveniste's results contradict homeopathic claims and has published his reasons in Laser, Jan-April, 1989, pp. 19-25.

CHIROPRACTORS PLAY ROLE IN FLUORIDATION SUCCESS

Factors behind the success of a fluoridation referendum in La Crosse, Wisconsin are analyzed in the American Journal of Public Health, (79:(10):1405-08, 1989). Analytical reports of successful fluoridation referenda are of interest since a majority fail. Voter passage of such legislation is also considered to be a bellwether of public support of science in general. Among the many items of interest to public health strategists covered in this report is the phenomenon that for the first time chiropractors were found on both sides of the issue. This may be also seen as a positive sign of a move toward science on the part of some chiropractors.

BOOK ON STATUS OF HEART DISEASE SCIENCE CAUSES FUROR

Thomas J. Moore's article "The cholesterol myth," in September issue of The Atlantic (drawn from his book Heart Failure, Random House, 1989) details the true state of current science regarding connections between cholesterol and heart disease. The picture is not a pretty one, and Moore appears to be suffering from the "blame the messenger of bad news" syndrome. Segments of the medical journalism community who have been convinced by political nutritionists and consumer groups that the answer to America's heart disease problem is dietary revision are painting Moore as everything from a hired gun of the fat foods suppliers to a misguided crank. It was bound to happen. The facts are that coronary risk factors are only associative, based primarily upon epidemiological, not experimental work. The only intervention study tested a sample from a population that was nonrepresentative of society at large. Moore's book merely presents the inadequacies of the present state of heart disease science, and the weak foundation upon which the National Cholesterol Education Program is based. Well-meaning people are advocating that mass intervention be done without the evidence generally required for such action (part of this mass intervention includes allowing health claims to be made for foods). Proponents argue that the heart disease problem is so large (#1 in all industrialized societies) and that they are focusing on malleable factors (eg, diet, exercise, smoking) even though they recognize that unchangeable factors such as gender, familial hypercholesterolemia, genetic tendencies toward high blood pressure and diabetes are probably more important. What troubles many is the distortion of perspective that the combined efforts of the American Heart Association, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and food advertisers is causing. These sources have created the illusion that there is scientific certainty about a significant diet-cholesterol-heart disease connection. Constructionist scientists fear that the image of science will be badly tarnished when the truth Moore presents becomes widely known, when in fact it has been a zeal to run ahead of science with public health applications based upon the presupposition that "it can't hurt." The next item on the agenda of the interventionists is a heart health logo that soon will appear on food products. The logo will reinforce the unfortunate "good food-bad food" mentality of food faddism instead of emphasizing total diet, lifestyle or predisposition. Another troubling factor is that the logo is for sale (only to those foods that meet AHA standards) which is bound to engender some cynicism. Those interested in knowing more about the dismal state of affairs within heart disease intervention science can do so by obtaining Diet, Blood Cholesterol and Coronary Heart Disease: A Critical Review of the Literature, by Russell Smith, PhD and Edward R. Pinckney, MD, 353 pages, July, 1988. Order from: Vector Enterprises, Inc., 1930 14th St., Santa Monica, CA 90404; Price: $85. Also, ACSH has a new report, The Facts and Myths about Coronary Heart Disease (Sept, 1989) that also presents a synoptic look at these issues.

IS FDA SELF-DESTRUCTING?

The FDA's misguided, and probably illegal, policy of permitting health claims to be made for foods is reeking havoc on the very consumer protection laws FDA is duty-bound to uphold. According to the October, 1989, issue of Whole Foods: "For the first time, reports the National Nutritional Foods Association, the FDA has been thwarted in its attempts to condemn a product for alleged drug claims because of the agency's failure to enforce the same law against other companies. The report says that Judge Robert Sweet of the Federal Court in New York ruled that because FDA had not enforced its drug labeling policy against major cereal manufacturers and the fish oil industry after health claims were made for such products, it could not discriminately apply its view of drug labeling to Exachol, a product that claims to have an effect upon cholesterol. The report further states that the health foods industry views this decision as having "wide-ranging implications" for the kinds of claims it has been making for 30 years.

Comment: The FDA has been the nation's leading bulwark against quackery for years. This position is now being badly eroded by it failure to stand up to pressure by political and economic factions bent upon returning the health marketplace to a "buyer beware" jungle (see "FDA Misled us..." NCAHF Newsletter, May-June, 1988).

NCAHF OPPOSES HEALTH CLAIMS FOR SPECIFIC FOODS;
SUPPORTS IMPROVED LABELING

The FDA has again called for public comment on whether or not FDA should permit health claims for specific foods. Also solicited are comments on the need for improved food labeling. NCAHF strongly favors efforts to make food labels more readable and understandable. Copies of the letter submitted to FDA by NCAHF are available upon request from the main office or resource center; please enclose a SSAE.

NATUROPATH SOUGHT BY IDAHO AUTHORITIES

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Twin Falls, Idaho, naturopath James Solomon on charges of grand theft and practicing medicine without a license. Complaints charge that Solomon received $10,000 from Nadine Tolman and $6,000 from Robert Albach alleging that he could cure them of cancer (The Spokesman Review, Coeur d'Alene, ID 10/29/89).

Comment: Idaho suffers from a weird judicial decision regarding the practice of naturopathy. A judge ruled that although there was no practice act enabling naturopathy, there was no law against practicing naturopathy as long as someone didn't engage in prescribing drugs, performing surgery, and so forth. This interpretation differs from most jurisdictions which would consider any act of diagnosing, prescribing for, or treating any physical or mental condition the practice of medicine. This strange decision has never been tested (at last report, at least) before the Idaho Supreme Court, but has greatly restricted the ability and will of authorities to crack down on unqualified practitioners. Apparently, the actions of Solomon are regarded as sufficiently violative to warrant legal action.

The FDA has issued a warning against the use of "immunization kits" allegedly sold through the mail by Solomon. The kits which may have been advertised as a means of protecting children from polio, scarlet fever, smallpox, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, typhoid, mumps and diphtheria actually consist of alcohol and water solutions and sugar pills. The FDA says that copies of letters of immunization signed by "Dr. James Solomon, ND" or other naturopaths may have been sent to purchasers of these immunization kits so they could meet local school vaccination requirements. (North Idaho New Network, 11/16/89.)

CONFRONTING CHIROPRACTIC IN THE CLASSROOM

Marvin J. Schissel, DDS, has been teaching a course entitled "Critical Thinking and Health Fraud" in a local community adult education program for several years. The course generated little interest in the past with only a handful of registrants -- many of whom were well-educated, trendy "intellectuals" who wished to have legitimate medicine condemned and the alternative fringe extolled. In an attempt to boost interest, this year Dr. Schissel changed the title to "Quackery" with the result that the course was overfilled. A major reason for the large response was that "Chiropractic in Light of the Scientific Method" was listed among the topics to be covered. This caused a furor among local chiropractors (DCs) who raised such a commotion that it became a question as to whether or not Schissel's course would be taught. The school administration was threatened with lawsuits for including chiropractic in a course on quackery. Administrators asked Schissel to soft-pedal any comments about chiropractic.

At the first lecture, local DCs and students (with tape-recorders) from a nearby chiropractic college turned out en mass. Schissel says that he spent a good bit of time unsuccessfully trying to convince a DC that "enough evidence exists to conclude that penicillin will generally cure bacterial pneumonia." The dissenting DC had much support from the students in the audience. At the second lecture, Schissel went into more detail on this but the chiropractic group had not returned. Only one lone DC, who agreed with Schissel on every point (apparently a reformer), attended. Schissel admitted that the presence of all of those chiropractic supporters affected his presentation causing him to say much less about chiropractic's scientific shortcomings than needed to be said. He later learned that the school administration was so nervous about the course that it had employed a peace officer to attend the lecture.

This case is not unusual. Several NCAHF members have similar experiences when addressing chiropractic in a public forum. DCs often attempt to stifle critical analysis of their guild by intimidating administrators with the threat of a lawsuit. Such threats infringe upon a teacher's academic freedom and abridge their First Amendment right of free speech. This is paradoxical since chiropractors themselves pay great lip-service to "freedom of choice." Sometimes litigation threats are by a DC's attorney who ought to know that such a lawsuit would be frivolous and an unlawful abuse of legal process. School administrators should be the first to recognize such infringements upon the academic process and defend this essential right above all else, however, the cost of defending such rights in the justice-for-profit legal system that has evolved in our society discourages such altruism, so administrators too often just knuckle-under.

Consumer health educators should be aware that chiropractors behave much like cult groups in the face of public criticism. Cult groups can easily organize followers and fill a room with people to intimidate a speaker or disrupt a lecture with excessive debate. It is best to stand up to such threats. Educators must proceed with their tasks guided by the principles of truth and fairness that represent proper scholarship. Our experience has been that these onslaughts are usually only attempted once. If they fail to have a course canceled, critics usually will no longer hassle the program directly. They may write angry letters or engage in subtle attempts at character assassination behind the scenes, but eventually simply brand the program as being part of the "medical conspiracy" and become silent. This unpleasantness is simply part of the price that educators must pay for publicly confronting a well-organized form of pseudomedicine. Educators should also be aware that on several occasions it has been the complaining DCs themselves that found themselves in legal trouble either for defamation or interfering with a business relationship.

COMMON SENSE, JUSTICE, AND QUACKERY

William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.

Mark Twain was probably right when he said that common sense isn't all that common, but judicial wisdom and common sense must be companions if people are to respect the law. Unfortunately, common sense seems to elude a significant portion of today's law, and a good deal of this sad state of affairs affects law enforcement efforts against quackery.

Dispensing Justice. Have you ever wondered how sentences are decided? A 20-year study of quackery in California found that the average convicted quack paid a fine of $200 (Criminology, 8 (May):46-62, 1970). That was considerably less than legitimate physicians pay for malpractice insurance! As much as that goes against common-sense justice, the most blatant case of inequitable justice occurred in Bozeman, Montana, in 1982. The Bozeman Chronicle (3/9/82) carried two stories involving the dispensation of justice by the local court on the same day. "Nature-healer" Bernard Kuennen paid a $10,000 award to Mr. and Mrs. Gunning, the parents of a 16-year-old diabetic girl he took off insulin (he also got 90-days in jail). A local man paid a $15,000 award to plaintiffs for killing their dog. Michael Glenn of Bozeman wrote that 90-days "should be just about enough time for (Kuennen) to realize that he is lucky that he didn't kill the Gunning's dog--it might have cost him $5,000 more" (Great Falls Tribune, 3/10/82).

Blame the Victim. It is sad but the myth that the victims of quackery are gullible fools impossible to protect from their folly often brings greater social stigma upon them than on the quacks who exploit their desperation. People should not be blamed for becoming desperate when faced with debility, pain, or fear. Aging, sickness and death are common fates. Common sense favors common decency; both abhor the wolves of quackery to prey upon the vulnerable.

Two Wrongs Make a Right. Perpetrators of heinous crimes have been released because the incriminating evidence was obtained in a technically illegal manner. Common sense would say that when a law officer violates someone's civil rights we now have two law-breakers to convict; the first should get his or her just-desserts and the officer who broke the law (eg, search and seizure) should be prosecuted for his/her infraction. A murderer or thief should not go free just because someone else broke a law. Common sense says that two "wrongs" do not make a "right."

Consent Agreements. Someone charged with breaking the law is often permitted to sign an agreement in which he admits no guilt, but promises to cease and desist. In common sense terms it states: "I did not do it, and I promise not to do it anymore!"

Sympathy for Orphans Who Murder Their Parents. There is an old legal conundrum about a man who murdered his parents but managed to get a reduced sentence by appealing for sympathy due to the fact that he was now an orphan. This legal travesty is often committed by judges trying the parents of children who die from medical neglect--either due to reliance upon faith healing, phony cancer cures or some other irrational act. The loss of a child is considered to be punishment enough. This would be like saying that if a thief is injured while committing only a petty theft, his personal injury is sufficient punishment. Common sense holds that people who break the law should be punished.

Deterrence vs. Justice. Some people don't believe in punishment--only deterrence. They reason that unless the penalty deters people from committing the same kind of crime in the future it is useless. The problem is that people who plan to break the law do not plan to get caught. This is especially true for con artists--many of whom engage in quackery. Common sense believes that punishment per se satisfies some inner sense of justice even if the punishment doesn't deter others. You don't shoot a vicious dog as a lesson to other dogs.

Legalization of Nonscientific Health Care. Common sense believes in learning from the past. Among the greatest triumphs of mankind has been advances in health science which have doubled the life-expectancy of people in technologically advanced societies over the past century. Health care providers are an important part of the health sciences and those who have pledged that they will only advance methods and procedures which have a scientific basis have come a long way. Still muddling around in philosophical approaches to health care are the sectarian practitioners (eg, chiropractic, homeopathy) and the eclectics (eg, naturopaths, holistic practitioners).

Legislators in every state license nonscientific health care. Reading some of the legal definitions of nonscientific health care would be hilarious if the topic wasn't so serious. Homeopathic definitions are the most bizarre. Nevada law states that homeopathic substances must be prepared according to "methods of Hahnemannian dilution and succussion, magnetically energized geometric pattern as defined in the (get this!) official homeopathic pharmacopeia of the United States." The homeopathic pharmacopeia is a chunk of health pseudoscience foisted on the American public in 1938 by then Senator Royal Copeland (D-NY) who was the leading homeopathic physician of his day. Common sense should have helped other legislators to see the obvious conflict of interest involved. Most state chiropractic practice acts specifically name or describe spinal "subluxations," which have never been shown to exist, as they define the legal role of chiropractors. Parallels to the violation of common sense portrayed in "The Emperor's New Clothes" are inescapable.

Let the Foxes Guard the Chicken Coops. Self-regulation can work when done by honest and objective professionals, but letting philosophically-driven health care providers regulate themselves is naive. Such people haven't even mustered enough courage to test their methods and procedures. Without science there can be no objective standard of health care. Without objective standards it is impossible to engage in consumer protection. Let's face it, even the regular medical profession doesn't adequately protect consumers from incompetence. A big part of the reason is the intimidation by bad doctors and their lawyers who can make life miserable for critics. The threat of antitrust prosecution now exists for anyone who interferes with the practices of competitors--even nonscientific practitioners (eg, see "The strange case of the chiropractic antitrust legal win," NCAHF Newsletter, 10:(6):1-2, Nov-Dec, 1987).

Plea-Bargaining. The opponents of common sense outdid themselves with "plea-bargaining." We have seen a manslaughter charge against a naturopath who caused the death of a diabetic plea-bargained down to "practicing medicine without a license." This elicited a "guilty" plea, but his offense was now considered to be so minor that it was deemed to be only worthy of a sentence of two years probation with the admonition that the quack was not to break the law by illegally practicing medicine during that period! Plea-bargaining is the worst kind of back-room deal the legal wizards have ever hatched. It makes no sense, common or otherwise.


Newsletter Contents Copyright 1989, National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc.
Items may be be reprinted without permission if suitable credit is given.

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