King of the quackbusters strikes again  

by Dr. Zoltan P. Rona MD MSc

The growing prominence of freedom of choice in health care groups across Canada has led to severe backlashes from the forces of medical orthodoxy. Examples of this in 1995 alone include the escalating attacks on alternative health care practitioners like Dr. Jozef Krop (for the practice of environmental medicine), Dr. Guylaine Lanctot (for her views published in "The Medical Mafia") and the doctors of the Opal Health Centre (for the use of homeopathy, therapeutic fasting and other natural alternatives).

When there are victories for complementary medicine, they are frequently followed by vicious attacks and treachery. Many of you know that the province of Nova Scotia was the first to start a Complementary Medicine Section at the level of the provincial medical licensing body. While other provinces like Alberta and Ontario are looking into a similar set up, Nova Scotia is many years ahead of the rest of Canada. Thanks in large part to the ceaseless efforts of Dr. William LaValley of Chester, Nova Scotia, this Maritime province has made history by being the first to recognize the public's demand for access to specialties such as Environmental Medicine, Bioenergetic Medicine, Homeopathy and Nutritional Medicine. In Nova Scotia, the public has unharassed access to electroacupuncture, intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy and homeopathic preparations dispensed by licensed medical doctors. Enter the Nova Scotia Dietetic Association and their hired gun, one Dr. Victor Herbert.

Well known for his extremist views against complementary (alternative) medicine and his never ending crusade against its proponents, Herbert appeared as the keynote speaker at the Nova Scotia Dietetics Association's fall convention. According to published newspaper reports, Herbert launched a vicious attack against Dr. LaValley. Herbert first listed the attributes of a psychopath, then told the audience of health care practitioners to closely watch a videotaped debate between himself and Dr. LaValley aired earlier on national television a few months ago. The clear implication made by Herbert was that LaValley was a psychopath. When a female physician protested Herbert's comments, she was asked by him to leave. Herbert has an intense fear of being contradicted in public and uses personal attacks as a convenient way of dealing with anyone even hinting that he might be wrong about an issue. A few years ago, Herbert stepped off the stage at one of his lectures to confiscate an audiocasette tape recording of his speech from someone in the audience. If any of you readers are planning to tape Herbert's comments at a future lecture, be warned.

In a well written letter to the Nova Scotia Minister of Health, Dr. LaValley states as follows:

"I am writing as a member of the health care community in Nova Scotia concerned that false, prejudiced and misleading information is being inappropriately presented as valid and credible - even though the true scientific evidence disproves the misinformation. There is a terrible professional disservice being perpetrated here - and it is being forced upon unsuspecting and uninformed health care professionals in Nova Scotia by the N.S. Dietetic Association.
Dr. Herbert's extremist views will serve only to further inflame prejudice in the health care profession in Nova Scotia. In fact, much of Canada has direct experience with the nature of derogatory statements by Dr. Herbert, who, during a recent filming of the CBC national debate television program 'Face-Off' in August 1995 wherein I was a participant, referred to me, without basis or justification, as a 'scam artist'. This is clearly irrational and against the physicians' professional code of ethics - yet seems consistent with the record of Dr. Herbert's behavior.
For what reason would the N.S. Dietetic Association bring to educate health care professionals in Nova Scotia someone whose professional bias against complementary medicine is so well known? Certainly, such actions are not in the best interests of the patients or health care profession of Nova Scotia in general, and are particularly harmful to the medical, professional, public and government community of Nova Scotia that established, supports, participates in and is served by the complementary medicine subspecialty clinic, the Environmental Health Clinic at Dalhousie.
I wish that it were not necessary to use such strong language to warn against this blatant bias and manipulative misinformation peddling. Perhaps, however, it takes strong language to awaken our health care professionals, media and elected officials to look closely at the motives and behaviors of individuals and organizations perpetuating such harmful and inaccurate propaganda."


LaValley goes on to discuss the motives of the leaders of the N.S. Dietetic Association who obviously feel that Victor Herbert accurately represents their professional beliefs. Nova Scotia's dietitians are not the only ones who have used characters like Herbert to attack complementary medicine. The animosity towards practitioners of complementary medicine, nutritional supplements and homeopathic remedies is a trait shared by the majority of dietitian leaders right across Canada.

The unholy alliance between dietitians and Victor Herbert may serve to deflect negative public opinion about the professional incompetence of mainstream dietetic practice. All one has to do to see evidence of this fact is to examine the dietitian prescribed nutritionally sub-optimal meals served to hospitalized patients and the resulting malnutrition. One 1987 study concluded that up to 40% of hospitalized patients suffer from malnutrition and that the longer they stay in hospital, the worse the malnutrition becomes. Dietitians have little to say about this as well as the presence of fast food establishments within big city hospitals. The Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, for example, has a Tim Horton's Donuts outlet in their lobby. Do dietitians approve? You bet they do. Otherwise, they would most likely be inviting people like LaValley to lecture to their colleagues and not fanatics like Victor Herbert.

For more information on Victor Herbert, the dietitian agenda against complementary medicine and what you can do to stop the attacks on your freedom of choice, see the references listed below.


My Health, My Rights Inc., Ron Dugas, President, 3702 St-Denis, Montreal, Quebec, H2X 3L7 phone: 514-285-2868; fax: 514-348-4800

LaValley, William. News Release, October 3, 1995. Medical Wellness Centre of the Maritimes, 227 Central St., Chester, Nova Scotia B0J 1J0; 902-275-4555.

Rona, Zoltan P. and Martin, Jeanne Marie. Return to the Joy of Health, Vancouver: Alive Books, 1995.