[back] Persecuted doctors

Washington State's war on holistic M.D.s

by Dr Jonathan Wright, M.D.


March 2007

When a patient walked into Dr. Geoff Ames' office looking for ways to treat his food allergy, Dr. Ames never imagined it would turn his entire career completely upside down. The patient had already had a positive antibody test (IgG4 RAST) for egg white and egg yolk allergies, so Dr. Ames explained his treatment options: eliminating eggs from his diet or desensitizing his body to eggs. Dr. Ames explained that to achieve desensitization, he sometimes uses a combination of kinesiology and electrodermal testing (known as EAV), which he demonstrated for this patient.

Although Dr. Ames' charts document that no treatment was done, the patient subsequently wrote a letter to the Washington State "Quality" Assurance Commission complaining about the potential use of the EAV device.

The commission responded by charging Dr. Ames with "moral turpitude"-yes, the same charge used against sex offenders and child molesters. He was also charged with violations of interstate commerce (which is a federal, not a state responsibility) and intrastate commerce, and with unprofessional conduct for using a device that the commission alleged was simultaneously "ineffectual" and capable of causing harm to the patient.

EAV is based on the idea of promoting health by stimulating and balancing the energies of the body. Any imbalances can be treated by applying electricity to acupoints or by supplementing with vitamins, minerals, botanicals, glandular extracts, homeopathic remedies, or any combination of these. No one has ever been hurt by an EAV device, but many people have been helped by them.

Even though the charges were later dropped, and even though no patient was harmed in any way, the commission suspended Dr. Ames' license for five years. In a perfectly transparent attempt to force Dr. Ames to practice conventional medicine (against both his conscience and the best interests of his patients), the commission "stayed" the suspension on several conditions: that he meet with them and submit to interrogation every six months and that he send in chart notes from 10 allergy patients every three months along with a signed affidavit stating that he is not using his EAV machine.

Guilty until proven innocent

All of this was decided by a commission that has no representation at all from the holistic medicine community! Dr. Ames' case is now on appeal through the courts, but unlike a typical court proceeding, the penalties aren't suspended until the appeal process is over. Rather, they're put into effect immediately. It's the guilty-until-proven-innocent method that natural medicine is often subject to.

As if all of that weren't outrageous enough, the commission has started a second investigation of Dr. Ames, alleging that he incorrectly diagnosed Lyme disease by relying on positive Western blot antibody tests (IgM and IgG) done by Igenex Laboratories of California. But these allegations don't make any sense either. Ignenex Laboratories is certified by both los Federales (CLIA) and a number of States, including California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Physicians all around these United States routinely diagnose Lyme disease based on positive antibody tests from Igenex.

This entire fiasco has had a major impact on both Dr. Ames' professional life and his personal one. He and his wife Kris were forced to refinance their house, as their legal defense so far has cost over $100,000, and there's no end in sight as to how much more legal representation he'll need. To stay in practice at all, Dr. Ames is being forced to violate his professional responsibility to practice to the best of his ability, according to the natural methods dictated by his education-and his conscience. And the patients who see Dr. Ames for his skills as a holistic physician are being deprived of the techniques that he finds most useful.

Since no one in the media has bothered to mention it, I'm compelled to say that Dr. Ames is an extremely qualified physician. After medical school, he studied internal medicine for one year and then took a four-year residency in pathology. But he soon decided he could do more for patients as a holistic physician. He took courses at the American College for Advancement in Medicine and received education in allergy and immunology through the American Academy of Environmental Medicine and the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy. He took the well-known UCLA acupuncture course headed by Dr. Joseph Helms, and he's certified by the American Holistic Medical Association. In addition to receiving more conventional allergy-immunology education, he studied NAET, kinesiology, the neuromodulation technique, and electrodermal testing (EAV).

Misery loves company

Unfortunately, Dr. Ames isn't alone in his plight. Here in Washington, there are at least 15 doctors who are members of the American College for Advancement in Medicine, the largest group of holistic physicians nationwide (with over 1,000 members). Within the last year, at least five of the holistic physicians in Washington have received investigation letters from the ironically named Medical "Quality" Assurance Commission. Two have been dragged through hearings and have judgments rendered against them (one of whom is Dr. Ames); the others are in more preliminary stages. I'm a part of the latter group.

In early March, I received a letter notifying me of a "preliminary investigation" (despite no patient complaints). The letter stated in part: "The...Commission has received a complaint alleging a number of procedures your website advertises are inefficacious and/or involve illegal devices. Specifically, Biological Terrain Assessment (BTA), Chelation Therapy as an alternative to vascular surgery; Colonics; IV ozone and Sensitivity Screening via non-invasive measures." It later noted: "Please be advised this is a preliminary investigation only and no charges have been issued in connection with this investigation."

Can't wait to hear if I'll be charged with "moral turpitude"!

Getting to the root of the problem

What's the catalyst of this sudden attack on holistic doctors? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. Two words: money and power.

Over 50 percent of Americans use some form of alternative medicine. Sales of organic food are booming. General Mills is sponsoring a multi-million dollar television ad campaign for whole grains. Alerted by Suzanne Somers, millions of women are now using bio-identical hormones. There's even an ad on nationwide TV for a homeopathic remedy, and a University medical school has just announced an endowed chair in orthomolecular medicine! Alternative medicine is on the verge of becoming mainstream, and the medical/pharmaceutical/governmental establishments are getting very worried. People taking care of their own health just isn't good for business.

So under the see-through disguise of "consumer protection," a counter-attack has begun. In several states, this attack comes in the form of medical boards intent on nailing alternative M.D.s. It's also coming at you via the "unbiased" journalists who are trumpeting badly flawed and misinterpreted research as "proof" that many standard natural and alternative treatments really aren't that good for you, after all.

All of this may come as a surprise to some of you, especially since the West Coast-California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska-is known nationwide as a hotbed for holistic and natural medicine. Alaska was the first in these United States to pass a law offering specific protection for holistic M.D.s. Just last year, California licensed naturopathic physicians (NDs). Oregon and Washington have more NDs in proportion to population than the rest of the U.S. Washington is home to Bastyr University, the first nationally accredited school of naturopathic medicine, and the nation's oldest school-the National College of Naturopathic Medicine-is in Oregon. And a higher proportion of "West Coasters" use holistic, natural, and alternative medicine than any other region of these United States. But that doesn't (and won't) impress the Washington State Medical "Quality" Assurance Commission, which has no holistic, alternative, or natural medicine members at all.

Over the next few months I'll keep you posted on all of these cases-including what's going on in my own investigation. In the meantime, you can contact the Washington State Medical "Quality" Assurance Commission and let them know about all the good results you've had using the techniques they're attacking.

If you haven't already done so, please consider helping all of us in our efforts. Again, your calls, letters, e-mails, and other communications to the numbers and addresses below will be very helpful.

Washington State Department of Health,
Health Professions Quality Assurance
P.O. Box 47865
Olympia, WA  98504
phone: (360)236-4700
e-mail: hpqa.csc@doh.wa.gov

Governor Christine Gregoire
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 40002
Olympia, WA  98504
phone: (360)902-4111
To send an e-mail, go to www.governor.wa.gov/

Washington State residents: It's very important to contact your state senator and state representatives. Find them at: http://www1.leg.wa.gov/  legislature/ or call (800)562-6000.