Consumer Health Digest #17-19

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 7, 2017

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. Its primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips.

Robert O. Young expected to do more jail time. Robert O. Young, author of The pH Miracle, has pleaded guilty to two more counts of practicing medicine without a license. In 2014, he was charged with multiple counts of grand theft and conspiring to practice medicine without a license. The San Diego District Attorney's press release stated that Young accepted patients, including some who were terminally ill, and temporarily housed them at his pH Miracle Center. The charges alleged that Young and associates broke the law when they went beyond advocating dietary changes and administered intravenous treatments to patients, some of whom were terminally ill. In 2016, following a 2-month trial, he was convicted of two counts of practicing medicine without a license. During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas portrayed Young as a charlatan who preyed on the sick and vulnerable—including dying cancer patients—and duped them with bogus science. A few weeks after the trial ended, Darvas announced that Young would be re-tried on the charges for which the jury was unable to reach a verdict. In 2017, faced with this possibility, Young pleaded guilty to two more counts of practicing medicine without a license. The plea agreement calls for a 44-month sentence, some of which has already been served. [Diehl P. Sentencing delayed for pH Miracle author. San Diego Union-Tribune, May 1, 2017] Young, who for many years has represented himself as "Dr. Young," has a "Ph.D." from Clayton College of Natural Health, a non-accredited correspondence school that closed in 2010 after Alabama began requiring that all private, degree granting, schools be accredited by a recognized agency or be a candidate for accreditation. [Barrett S. Clayton College of Natural Health: Be wary of the school and its graduates. Quackwatch, Jan 8, 2015] 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. [Barrett S. A critical look at "Dr." Robert Young's theories and credentials. Quackwatch, May 5, 2017]

Young associate loses medical license. The Osteopathic Medical Board of California revoked the license of Bennie S. Johnson, D.O. and ordered him to pay $20,000 to reimburse the board for the cost of its enforcement action. In 2016, the board charged him with with gross negligence, repeated negligence, and general unprofessional conduct in connection with his management of four patients at Robert O. Young's pH Miracle Center. The accusation against Johnson states that he (a) failed to adequately evaluate, treat, and monitor the patients; (b) lacked the training needed to manage their care; and (c) should have consulted with or referred the patients to cancer specialists. Even though this was the first time Johnson had been in trouble, these charges were upheld by an administrative law judge who concluded:

There is no evidence that respondent appreciates or understands that he engaged in gross negligence and repeated negligent acts in his care and treatment of the patients. There is no evidence that he has changed his practice of medicine. There is no evidence that respondent has taken steps to assure that he does not make the same mistakes in the future. Further, respondent challenged the board's jurisdiction, questioning the board's authority over his practice of medicine. As such, there is no evidence that he would comply with the terms and conditions of probation. Considering the foregoing, it was not established that respondent is rehabilitated; and, it would be contrary to the public interest to allow respondent to retain his physician's and surgeon's certificate to practice medicine.

Johnson and Young are facing a suit by Dawn Kali, who claims that her breast cancer progressed from stage I (localized and easily treatable) to stage IV (widely spread) because she followed Young's advice. Johnson is also licensed in Georgia. His entry in the Georgia Medical Board lists non-accredited First National University of Naturopathy among his sources of postgraduate education.

Donsbach University "graduate" in trouble again. The New Jersey Attorney General has filed suit to stop Raymond J. Salani, Jr, from engaging in the unlicensed practice of medicine. Salani, who has a "Ph.D. degree" from non-accredited Donsbach University, has been practicing as a "nutritionist" for nearly 30 years. During the past few years, he has been doing business as Lifestyles Medical LLC in West Long Branch. New Jersey does not define or regulate the practice of nutrition, but Salani has gotten into trouble several times for the manner in which he does it.

The current complaint charges Salani with violating New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act as well as the 1990 and 1994 court orders. The complaint describes several instances where Salani and his son Randy allegedly had offered medical advice to patients. The State also conducted two undercover operations in which investigators posing as patients interacted with Salani. Both investigators received prescriptions after talking only with Salani and despite never having seen or talked to a physician. Last month the Attorney General obtained an order to seize Salani's office records. In addition to stopping his unlicensed practice of medicine, the state is seeking (a) a six-month prison sentence for contempt, (b) civil penalties, (c) restitution to all affected persons or entities, and (d) costs associated with the prosecution of the case. Quackwatch has additional details and links to the key documents.

Free webinar will critique the "health freedom" concept. William M. London, a professor of public health at Cal State LA, will present a one-hour online webinar on "The 'Health Freedom' Movement Versus Consumer Protection" at 11:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time on Friday, May 12th. Attendance is free but requires advance registration. The webinar is part of the Southern California Public Health Association's Talking Public Health Series offered in collaboration with California Baptist University's Department of Health Science and CBU Online. Certified Health Education Specialists who attend are eligible to receive 1 CHES unit.

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This page was posted on May 8, 2017.