Consumer Health Digest #09-22

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 28, 2009

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

Appeals court upholds chiropractic contract voiding. A small claims appeals court has upheld the trial judge's ruling that voided the contracts between chiropractor Donald Harte and two former patient, Gertrude C. West, who sued Harte in Marin County, California. West, a retired attorney, had sought help for knee pain but was advised to have intensive care for “subluxation degeneration” of her spine. She contracted for 100 visits with a discount for advance payment but severe penalties for discontinuing. After 49 visits over a 4-month period, she concluded that she was not being helped and asked that payment for the unused visits be refunded. When Harte refused, she filed suit. The judge concluded that (a) West had been misled, (b) the penalty clause was "unconscionable," and (c) West was entitled to a $6,401 refund, plus the cost of the suit. The other former patient, Victoria Pollock-Grasso of Tiburon, objected to Harte charging a $559 "administrative fee" when she decided to stop seeing him. Grasso said she stopped because an orthopedist she consulted for a second opinion said she had degenerative disc disease in her cervical spine and that Harte's manipulation of her neck could cause her to have a stroke. Harte appealed the West ruling, asserting that the contract was enforceable and that he was entitled to reasonable compensation for services rendered. The appeals judge reduced the award to $4,589.00 plus costs of $75.00. The judge did not explain how he decided what was "reasonable," but he clearly agreed that the contract was not. Noncancellable advance-pay contracts are typically promoted with scare tactics and are always improper. Even if chiropractic treatment can legitimately help a problem, it is not possible to know in advance that a large specified number of visits will be needed. [Barrett S. Don't pay or contract in advance for chiropractic visits at a "discount" price. Chirobase, May 24, 2009]

Another phony device debunked. Device Watch has posted a report on ZYTO scanning devices, which are claimed to measure "shifts in the body's stress system" and determine "balancers that will "move the body back to homeostasis." ZYTO's "LSA Pro" and "Balance" systems are marketed to professionals (mostly chiropractors), and its "Compass" system is marketed to MLM distributors and consumers who can lease it for $39.95 per month. The devices use a hand cradle that relays signals to and from a computer that runs software that is said to "send stimuli to the body using digital signatures that represent actual things" and to interpret skin-resistance fluctuations that indicate "the body's degree of preference for the items being assessed." ZYTO devices has been marketed in the United States for more than two years despite lack of FDA registration or clearance. ZYTO Corporation asserts that registration is not required because it "is not used to diagnose, treat, or cure health conditions or diseases" and its its technology is equivalent to a printed history form. However, the "stressors" for which it is programmed include bacteria, injuries, allergies, lack of sleep, toxins, emotional strain, and traumatic events, and the "balancers" are the dietary supplements, herbal, and homeopathic products marketed by about 60 affiliated companies. [Barrett S. Zyto scanning: Another test to avoid. Device Watch, May 27, 2009]

Fugitive teen resumes chemotherapy. Thirteen-year-old Daniel Hauser, who fled with his mother to seek "alternative" treatment in Mexico, has returned to Minneapolis and begun chemotherapy for Hodgkins disease. The Hausers, who are Catholic, also belong to the Nemenhah Band, a "Native American Church" that teaches that all illnesses can be cured with native remedies and that chemotherapy and radiation are “poisons.” After cancer specialists determined that chemotherapy offered a 90% or better chance of cure, a local judge ordered him to undergo standard treatment. Press reports suggest that the boy and his mother were lured to California by an attorney (a Nemenhah member) who promised to take them to Mexico, but then abandoned them after federal authorities issued a fugitive warrant. [Brown C. Hausers: Enticed, then abandoned. Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 27, 2009] Nemenhah membership occurs through "spiritual adoption" that involves a “donation” of $250 and subsequent monthly “donations.” Members 13 years old and older are considered “medicine men” and “elders” in the organization, which also sells herbal products concocted by Nemenhah's founder, Philip R. Landis. Members can also sell the products. In 2001, Landis was convicted of fraud for misleading investors in a Reishi mushroom-growing business.

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This page was posted on May 28, 2009.