Consumer Health Digest #04-34
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 24, 2004
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. 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
Barrett wins libel award. An arbitration panel composed of three attorneys has awarded Dr. Stephen Barrett $6,500 in general damages and $10,000 in punitive damages in a libel case against Tedd Koren, D.C., and Koren Publications, which is probably the world's largest publisher of chiropractic patient education materials. In 2002, Barrett sued Koren for falsely reporting that Barrett had been "delicensed," is a " quackpot," and was "in trouble" because he had been justifiably sued for racketeering. Koren's report was based on a "news release" by Tim Bolen, a professional character assassin whom Barrett is also suing for libel. Koren's answers during a deposition indicated that he neither knew nor cared whether what he said was true. The arbitrators also ordered Koren to publish a retraction. Koren has filed an appeal, which means that the case may be retried in front of a jury. Chirobase has the full story of the suit and a copy of the deposition.
Stuart Suster's medical license revoked. The Wisconsin Medical Board has revoked the medical license of Stuart Suster, M.D., of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. In July, an Administrative Law Judge issued a lengthy report which concluded that Suster had:
- Improperly prescribed controlled drugs.
- Improperly touched 16 women, including seven whose breasts he grabbed or fondled when they were in his office and two he kissed while they were receiving "electrostimulation treatment" in a reclining chair.
- Threatened to injure four patients.
- Improperly fondled the scrotum of a male patient who had complained of constipation.
- Used an improper procedure code to bill ten insurance companies for approximately $1 million more than they might pay for properly coded claims for treatment with a Dynatron machine.
- Billed excessively in six cases, in some of which he charged both the patient and the patient's insurance company for the same services.
- Billed third-party payers for a total of more than 24 hours of physician-patient contact time on four dates.
- Engaged in substandard practices, including inadequate record-keeping, in treating three patients.
- Failed to comply with an Wisconsin Medical Examining Board order to undergo to a five-day residential evaluation. The order was issued after several patients complained that he had spoken to them in an angry and loud manner, using language inappropriate for a physician. The charges against Suster state that he underwent the evaluation but refused to release the required report to the Board.
Although the proceedings did not question Suster's basic use of the Dynatron machine, they could have done so. Proponents claim that the device relieves chronic pain by influencing the sympathetic nervous system. However, an assessment published in 2002 by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries concluded that it has not been proven effective. The revocation takes effect immediately, although Suster can appeal the decision in state court. In recent months, Tim Bolen has "advocated" on Suster's behalf.
Lead poisoning by ayurvedic products reported. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported on 12 cases of lead poisoning associated with with the use of ayurvedic medications. The report states that certain traditional or folk medications used in East Indian, Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian, and Hispanic cultures contain lead and other adulterants, but certain branches of ayurvedic medicine consider heavy metals to be therapeutic and encourage their use in the treatment of certain ailments. [Lead poisoning associated with ayurvedic medications--five states, 2000-2003. MMWR 53:582-4, 2004]
Antiamalgamist loses dental license. Alan L. Spaeth, D.D.S., who practiced "mercury-free dentistry" in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, has agreed to surrender his dental license and pay $6,045.46 in costs to the State of Wisconsin. The Dental Examining Board's report states that Spaeth "failed to completely remove patients' existing restoration materials and decay before placing new composite restorations," "failed to do certain periodontal examinations," and "failed to properly place and shape composite restorations." The Board concluded that his mistreatment of six patients constituted "unprofessional conduct." The American Dental Association Council on Ethics, Bylaws, and Judicial Affairs has concluded that "removal of amalgam restorations solely for the alleged purpose of removing toxic substances from the body, when such treatment is performed at the recommendation of the dentist, presents a question of fraud or quackery in all but an exceedingly limited spectrum of cases." Spaeth replaced a total of 57 amalgam fillings with composite fillings. But rather than considering why he did this, Wisconsin's regulators focused on allegations that his replacement work was substandard. In 1991, Spaeth was reprimanded for failing to keep adequate records.
Omnimedia adds misguided publications. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. has purchased New Age Publishing Inc.'s "Body & Soul" magazine and Thorne Communications Inc.'s "Dr. Andrew Weil's Self Healing" newsletter. Body & Soul, founded in 1974 as the "New Age Journal" and renamed in 2001, promotes organic food, "natural" products, "mind-body methods" and various spiritual and metaphysical practices. [Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia acquires Body & Soul Magazine and Dr. Andrew Weil's Self Healing Newsletter, PR Newswire, Aug 12, 2004] "Body & Soul" contains many inappropriate recommendations. Weil's newsletter intertwines sense and nonsense. (An example of its nonsense is a recent statement that "acupuncture, which aims to rebalance the body's life energy or chi, can be helpful for MCS patients, perhaps by helping to eliminate toxins and strengthening organ systems.") The news release did not indicate whether Martha Stewart herself played any role in the acquisition.
This page was posted on August 24, 2004.