Consumer Health Digest #18-45

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 11, 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.

"pH miracle" promoter hit with huge damages award. A jury in a San Diego Superior Court civil trial has awarded $105 million to 45-year-old Dawn Kali, a cancer patient who alleged that Robert O. Young negligently and fraudulently held himself out as a doctor and counseled her to forego standard medical treatment including chemotherapy. According to Kali's attorney, her oncologist says she has stage four cancer and can expect to live three or four years. Young gained fame promoting dubious health notions such as his "pH miracle" claim that health depends primarily on proper balance between an alkaline and acid cellular environment that can be optimized by dietary modification and taking supplements. In 2016, Young was convicted on two counts of practicing medicine without a license and spent several months in prison. As part of that sentencing deal, Young declared in court that he is not a microbiologist, hematologist, medical or naturopathic doctor, or trained scientist. [Figueroa T. Jury awards $105M in suit against pH Miracle author. San Diego Union-Tribune. Nov 2, 2018] Young's disreputable credentials, misleading testimonials, legal difficulties, and irrational theories are discussed on Quackwatch. Commenting on the Kali case, David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D. wrote:

Whatever the reason, if there's one thing I can say about this case is that it couldn't have happened to a more appropriate guy. Robert O. Young was one of the first cancer quacks I took notice of back when I was first discovering how deep the rabbit hole of alternative medicine is. He's been one of the most egregious, preaching the most blatantly pseudoscientific nonsense and charging huge sums for it. So you'll pardon me if I'm feeling more than a bit of schadenfreude to see him not only having had to serve time in prison, but to be facing a judgment and selling his ranch, for which he's asking $3.2 million. [Gorski D. More please! A victim of Robert O. Young wins a $105 million settlement. Science-Based Medicine. Nov 5, 2018]

Seller of sham health insurance shut down. A federal judge has temporarily shut down a Florida-based operation, Simple Health Plans LLC, that allegedly collected more than $100 million by preying on Americans in search of health insurance, selling worthless plans that left tens of thousands of people uninsured. A federal court temporarily halted the operation with assets frozen pending resolution of the case. The court actions were in response to a complaint for permanent injunction and other equitable relief filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against the company's owner, Steven J. Doorman, Simple Health Plans LLC, Health Benefits One LLC, Health Center Management LLC, Innovative Customer Care LLC, Simple Insurance Leads LLC, and Senior Benefits One LLC. The defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act and the agency's Telemarketing Sales Rule. The FTC alleged:

[FTC halts purveyors of sham health insurance plans. FTC Press Release. Nov 2, 2018]

"Energy medicine" chiropractor's license suspended. A Shasta County Superior Court judge has suspended the chiropractic license of Steven C. Davis, D.C., of Palo Cedro, California, pending resolution of a felony charge of practicing medicine without a certificate and a misdemeanor charge of unlicensed naturopathic practice. The charges were based on an investigation by the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Press reports indicate that Davis told the investigator:

Davis did business as Gesundheit Clinic and operated the Gesundheit Village Web site, which he represented as "the ultimate education hub teaching the benefits of energy medicine and methodologies of natural healing." The site also stated that he became a "certified traditional naturopath" in 1998, but this credential has no legal standing. (Note: His version of "energy medicine" should not be confused with energy as understood in modern physics.)

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