Consumer Health Digest #15-12

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 22, 2015

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.

Naturopath blogging about why she quit practice. Britt Hermes, who graduated from Bastyr University in 2011, took a year of postgraduate training, and then practiced in Washington and Arizona, has begun to reveal what she has observed about her ex-profession's significant inadequacies. Her blog, Naturopathic Diaries: Confessions of a Former Naturopath, discusses the pseudoscientific nature of naturopathy, her reasons for becoming a naturopath, and her reasons for leaving naturopathy. She is also writing occasional articles for Science-Based Medicine. The first SBM article, "ND Confession, Part 1: Clinical training inside and out," compares what naturopaths tell legislators about their training with what students actually encounter in school. For example, although students are required to have certain numbers of patient contacts for graduation, these numbers may be reached by examining each other rather than real patients.

Alabama permits physical therapists to do spinal manipulation. Alabama's courts have upheld the right of James Dunning, D.P.T. to perform spinal manipulation. Dunning practices in Montgomery and also operates the Spinal Manipulation Institute, whose teachings are approved by the Alabama Board of Physical Therapy. In 2009, the Alabama Board of Chiropractic Examiners filed a lawsuit which charged that by advertising or performing spinal manipulations for the relief of pain, Dunning was "either holding himself out as and/or is practicing chiropractic without a license." In response, Dunning denied that he was practicing chiropractic and asked the court to summarily dismiss the suit. During the trial court's hearing on the summary judgment motion, the Chiropractic Board confirmed that it was seeking a ruling that would prohibit all physical therapists, not just Dunning, from engaging in spinal manipulation. But the judge indicated that if the chiropractors wanted to dispute the policy of the physical therapy board, they would have to do so directly and not through a suit against an individual. After he dismissed the suit, the chiropractors appealed to the Supreme Court of Alabama, which upheld the dismissal without issuing a written opinion. Details of this case, a similar case in Arkansas (which the chiropractors won), and chiropractic efforts to stop Medicare from covering spinal manipulation have been posted to Chirobase. Dr. Stephen Barrett has concluded:

Spinal manipulation is appropriately taught in physical therapy schools and postgraduate courses. There is no logical reason why anyone who is properly trained and licensed to perform spinal manipulation should not be able to do it. In fact, if anyone deserves to be restricted, it is the large proportion of chiropractors who misuse manipulation to "correct" nonexistent "vertebral subluxations."

D.C. Court asked to raise standards for expert testimony. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has been asked to review a trial court opinion in order to determine whether District of Columbia judges should have more gatekeeping authority. Nearly all federal and state courts follow Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the Daubert standard (or an equivalent state standard) for determining admissibility of expert testimony. Since 2001, many lawsuits have been filed by people who claim that cell phone radiation caused them or a deceased family member to develop a brain tumor. Thirteen of these suits have been consolidated into a combined proceeding (Murray v. Motorola et al.) in which the court would first determine whether there is a plausible causation theory. In 2014, the presiding judge concluded that there was insufficient evidence of causation and that under the 702/Daubert standard, Murray's proposed experts would have their testimony excluded. But because the District of Columbia permits juries to determine credibility, he ruled that several of the plaintiff's experts could testify anyway.

Motorola has appealed this decision, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, the American Medical Association, the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Association of Corporate Counsel, the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, and the International Association of Defense Counsel have submitted a combined amicus curiae brief discussing the issue. In addition, the four business groups have jointly petitioned the court to hear the appeal. The trial judge's opinion contains an excellent discussion of the scientific perspective on cell phones and cancer.

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This page was posted on March 22, 2015.