Consumer Health Digest #18-14

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 8, 2018

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

Purported psychic sentenced for tax evasion. Sally Ann Johnson, 41, of south Florida, who claimed to provide psychic readings and spiritual cleansing and strengthening, has been sentenced to 26 months in prison for tax evasion, to which she pleaded guilty. [ 'Psychic' paid $3.5M for exorcisms sentenced for tax evasion. New York Post, Jan 17, 2018] She was also ordered to pay $725,000 to the Internal Revenue Service and to repay an elderly Massachusetts woman who, between 2007 and 2014. paid $3,567,300 "to have her demons exorcised." [Purported psychic pleads guilty to evading taxes. Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's Office press release, Oct 5, 2017]

Naturopath sentenced for life-threatening diet advice. Marilyn Pauline Bodnar, 61, who practiced as a naturopath in Sydney, Australia, has been sentenced to a maximum 14-month prison term after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting a mother in failing to provide for her eight-month-old boy in 2015. The mother, who had been trained as a midwife at a university hospital in Sydney, had sought help from Bodnar in treating the boy's eczema. Bodnar recommended ending medical and dermatological treatments and put the mother, who was breastfeeding the infant, on a raw-food diet and eventually a water diet and watermelon diet for three days. The boy was subsequently hospitalized with severe malnutrition and developmental issues and was near death. In 2016, the mother pleaded guilty to failing to provide for her baby and was given a 14-month good-behavior bond after agreeing to give evidence against Bodnar. [Naturopath jailed after baby nearly starved to death. Sydney Morning News, April 5, 2018]

Naturopath who homeopathically managed fatal natural birthing absolved. In May 2017, the Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board dismissed a complaint by the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) against naturopath Anne Marie Palzer in her role as the clinical director of Birth Haven at Life Spring Midwifery. Records indicate that when a patient came to the center in active labor, a midwife consulted Palzer about signs that the unborn baby was in distress. The baby was transferred to a hospital but could not be resuscitated. DHS alleged that Palzer failed to authenticate the homeopathic medication that had been ordered for the patient every 15 minutes for several hours, and that she had failed to require communication from Birth Haven to the hospital. However, the naturopathic board declared that since Palzer ordered an over-the-counter homeopathic, authentication wasn't needed, and that she had followed proper protocol in connection with the transfer.

Commenting on the case, naturopathic whistleblower Britt Marie Hermes has said:

I suspect that some naturopaths reading this post are thinking that they would have done something differently than what Palzer did. But, my former colleagues, how can you be so sure that you would have made a different decision?

The institutions that train naturopaths revere homeopathy. This veneration, in my opinion, coerces students to believe in magic. Homeopathic medicines are based on substances that are so diluted with water that none of the original material remains. It is the so-called "water memory" of the substance that naturopaths and others believe is medicine. As naturopaths, we are taught that homeopathy can do anything, given the right remedy. [Hermes B. A naturopath-midwife, homeopathy, and a dead newborn. Naturopathic Diaries, December 28, 2017]

CFI calls for consumer protection against homeopathy. The Center for Inquiry has submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration calling for a much firmer stance on the manufacture and marketing of homeopathic products than provided in draft guidelines released several months ago. In a press release, CSI asserts:

We enthusiastically support the FDA coming down hard on homeopathy where the products are tainted or sold as miracle cures for fatal diseases. . . . But that's not nearly enough. Americans waste billions of dollars every year on homeopathic sugar pills. The FDA has a duty not just to those poisoned by homeopathy, but also to those fleeced of their hard earned dollars. [FDA has a duty to crack down on homeopathic fake medicine, says Center for Inquiry. CFI press release, March 26, 2018]

Cal-Ban 3000 weight-loss scam story recounted. In the 1980s, Cal-Ban 3000 was the most aggressively marketed guar gum-containing mail-order product for weight loss. In a new article, Dr. Stephen Barrett tells the story of the dubious claims made for the product, the failure of the company that sold it to stand by its money-back guarantee, regulatory action by the U.S. Postal Service, reports that guar gum taken by mouth can expand to cause esophageal blockages, delayed regulatory action by the Food and Drug Administration, and regulatory actions in California and Florida. Dr. Barrett also offers recommendations to curb the marketing of dubious products ordered by consumers for home delivery. [Barrett S. The rise and fall of Cal-Ban 3000. Diet Scam Watch, March 22, 2018]

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This page was posted on April 8, 2018