Consumer Health Digest #04-03
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 20, 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 decision-making.
Coroner's jury links neck manipulation to stroke death. A coroner's jury, which concluded that Lana Dale Lewis of Toronto was killed by a chiropractic neck manipulation, has ruled that her death was "accidental" rather than "natural." On September 1, 1996, six days after manipulation of her upper neck, Lewis was admitted to Queensway General Hospital suffering from a stroke. She died from another stroke on September 12. The issue involved was whether her death was due to natural causes (hardening of the arteries) or an injury to an artery caused by the manipulation. For purposes of the inquest, the word "accidental" means "not due to natural causes. As explained by Amani Oakley, the attorney who represented Lewis's survivors:
An inquest jury in Ontario can only find one of five one-word verdicts: homicide, suicide, accident, natural causes, and undetermined. They cannot actually point the finger of blame to anyone, so it is not open to them to make a finding of "death from a chiropractic manipulation." However, they were clearly instructed by the Coroner and other counsel that if they were convinced that the cause of Lana Lewis' stroke was as a result of the neck manipulation, this would be a traumatic origin of the stroke, and their verdict would be "accident." If they believed that the stroke she died from was as a result of her lifestyle, health condition, etc., then the verdict would be "natural causes'." If they were not sure which of the two it was, then their finding would be undetermined.
Among other things, the jury recommended that all patients for whom neck manipulation is recommended be informed that risk exists and that the Ministry of Health establish a database for chiropractors and other health professionals to report on neck adjustments. The jury's report is posted to Chirobase. The closing arguments will be posted when available.
Court upholds discipline of prominent Canadian chiropractor. The Divisional Court of Ontario has dismissed the appeal of Ogi Ressel, D.C., a prominent Canadian chiropractor who was disciplined by the College of Chiropractors of Ontario (CCO) in 2002. In August 2002, the CCO's discipline panel found Ressel guilty of professional misconduct after concluding that he had verbally and psychologically abused a minor patient, made unprofessional comments to the patient and her mother, kept inadequate records, and provided unnecessary therapeutic services. The panel ordered a nine-month suspension and payment to CCO of $87,948.58 for costs. Ogi appealed, but in July 2003, the Divisional Court of Ontario dismissed the appeal. Ogi's Web site states that he has taught pediatrics at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College and is a former chairman of the Ontario Chiropractic Association's Ethics and Discipline Committee. His practice-building Web site states suggests that he operates "the largest pediatric and family practice in Canada," Ogi also operates Professional Design Group, a company that sells practice-building aids. His book, Kids-First: Health With No Interference, discusses correction of "subluxations" in cases of infertility, ear infections, asthma, scoliosis, arthritis, ADHD, Crohn's disease, colic, bed-wetting, allergies, growing pains, spinal degeneration, ulcerative colitis.and many other conditions. The CCO is the governing body that regulates chiropractors in Ontario.
Metabolife officials suspected of tax evasion. The owners of Metabolife International, the leading marketer of ephedra-containing "diet pills," are under investigation for massive tax evasion. According to an affidavit signed in 2002 by an Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator:
- Michael Blevins, Michael Ellis, and William Robert Bradley skimmed millions of dollars in cash from the company and hid money in offshore accounts.
- Metabolife failed to account for $93.7 million in income between 1996 and 1999, when the company sold Metabolife 356 through a network of independent distributors who were encouraged to pay cash for wholesale supplies of the product.
- Former employees said the company maintained multiple sets of books to disguise its true financial activities, as well as "off-the-books" bank accounts that helped disguise the skimming activities.
In September 2003, Blevins (who was convicted in 1988 of conspiracy to manufacture and possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute) and his his wife Danica were charged with conspiracy to illegally obtain firearms and three counts of illegally possessing firearms. [USAO news release, Sept 15, 2003] The tax investigation affidavit was unsealed in November in connection with the firearms case. No tax-evasion charges have been filed, but about a week after the affidavit was unsealed, Metabolife's outside accountant Michael Compton was found dead in his home, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. [Crabtree P. Documents link Metabolife, offshore banks: Kickbacks also paid, affidavit alleges. San Diego Union-Tribune, Dec 2, 2003] The affidavit has been posted on Quackwatch.
JAMA will offer partial free access. The Journal of the American Medical Association has announced that by the end of February 2004, it will offer free online access to all of its major articles and editorials from 6 months to 5 years after publication. [DeAngelis CD, Musacchio RA. Access to JAMA. JAMA 291:370-371, 2004]