Consumer Health Digest #16-09

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 13, 2016

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.

NCAHF's founder dead at 80. William T. Jarvis, Ph.D., a retired Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Loma Linda University, died March 1st. Jarvis co-founded the National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc. and two predecessor groups that he led as president from 1977 until his retirement in 2000. Under his leadership, the NCAHF became the nation's primary clearinghouse for information about health frauds and quackery. Jarvis recommended labeling and attacking quackery as a public health problem. He wrote extensively and spouted unique insights into the quack marketplace. For example, in response to sales pitches for "natural" methods, he would note that death and disease are also natural.

NCAHF's history has been updated on the NCAHF archive.

Chiropractic injury mill laid bare. Undercover investigators who visited Wellness Centres of Ontario, a chiropractic "rehab" clinic, have reported that the chiropractor, an assistant, and an associated paralegal were willing to create records for nonexistent treatments, bill for nonexistent injuries, and coach patients about what to say if their insurance company asks for details. The obvious fraud was captured on videotape and broadcast this week. The investigators began their "sting" by telling clinic personnel that they had been in accidents and weren't injured, but were looking to make money off the accident somehow. After $7,000 was billed, the evidence was given to the police and the chiropractor (Edward Hayes), his receptionist (Doina Osacenco), and the paralegal (Anna Kovtanuka) were arrested and charged with fraud. [McNair M. Undercover video provides rare glimpse into possible auto insurance fraud. CTV-W5, March 11, 2016]

Robert O. Young facing more legal trouble. The San Diego District Attorney has announced that Robert O. Young, who was convicted last month of practicing medicine without a license, will be retried on other charges about which the jury could not agree. Even though the fees for treatment at his pH Miracle Living facility were high, Young has indicated that he can no longer afford to pay an attorney and asked that a public defender be appointed. [Figueroa T. pH Miracle author to face new trial. San Diego Union Tribune, March 7, 2016] Young, who represents himself as "Dr. Young," has a "Ph.D." from Clayton College of Natural Health, a nonaccredited correspondence school that closed in 2010 after Alabama began requiring accreditation for license renewal. The central premise of Young's approach—which lacks scientific support—is that health depends primarily on proper balance between an alkaline and acid cellular environment that can be optimized by dietary modification and taking supplements.

Christian Science Church still declining. Data from the Christian Science Church's online directory indicate that membership in the Christian Science Church has continued to decline. [Barrett S. Christian Science statistics: Practitioners, teachers, nurses, and churches in the United States. Quackwatch, March 13, 2016] Since 1971, the number of practitioners and teachers has dropped from 4,965 to 942, a decrease of about 5% per year; and the number of churches has dropped from 1,829 to 778, a decrease of about 2% per year. Christian Science contends that illness is an illusion caused by faulty beliefs and that prayer heals by replacing bad thoughts with good ones. Christian Science practitioners work by trying to argue the sick thoughts out of the patient's mind. Consultations can take place in person, by telephone, or even by mail. Individuals may also be able to attain correct beliefs by themselves through prayer or concentration. There is no scientific evidence that Christian Science methods influence the course of any disease. The steady membership decline is not surprising because the church's doctrines have little appeal to modern youth.

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This page was posted on March 13, 2016.