Letter To Auditor - Brian Sonntag


Ann Clifton
Mercury Awareness Team of Washington
855 Trosper Road
Olympia, WA 98512-8108
360-357-6263

August 16, 2006

Brian Sonntag
State Auditor
P.O. Box 40021
Olympia WA 98504-0021

Dear Mr. Sonntag:

There appears to be a broad-based, orchestrated effort by a non-profit organization called Quackwatch, a national non-profit, which ostensibly seeks to prevent health fraud, to interfere with health care practitioners in the State of Washington who treat patients outside the narrow paradigm promulgated by the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association and the pharmaceutical industry. I am writing this letter on behalf of Washington health and dental care practitioners who want to provide traditional and innovative therapies (sometimes referred to herein as "holistic practitioners"); and, on behalf of consumers who wish to have access to more natural health and dental care treatments.

These health consumers are more interested in prevention of health harm than in treatment of symptoms after they have occurred but, again, wish to have access to treatments not generally provided by allopathic medicine in the event prevention techniques are unsuccessful. Holistic practitioners can be licensed or unlicensed and include, but are not limited to: Medical Doctors, Doctors of Osteopathy, Naturopaths, Nurses, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Homeopaths, Mercury-free Dentists, Herbalists, Practitioners of Oriental Medicine, Physical Therapists, Massage Therapists, Nutritionists, Practitioners of Energy Medicine, Colon therapists/hydropaths, and others not specifically named herein.

The allopathic practitioners denote all health care practitioners practicing outside a narrow range of "standard of care" as "quacks." The derivation of the word "quack" is from the German word "quecksilber" (translation: quicksilver - a synonym for mercury) and was used by medical doctors to describe mercury-using dentists in the 19th century. We do not miss the irony that it is now the mercury-using dentists calling the mercury-free dentists "quacks."

It appears that Quackwatch is identifying health care practitioners as targets for the State for investigations and prosecutions, and then coaches the State in the evidence necessary for hearings. We are asking you, in your oversight capacity, to ask for relevant documents and to ask specific questions related to the prosecutions of holistic practitioners and to Quackwatch's involvement with the Department of Health and the Commissions and Boards under them, specifically: Medical Quality Assurance Commission (MQAC); Dental Quality Assurance Commission (DQAC); and, the Board of Pharmacy.

Information which would be relevant to this inquiry includes:

(1) All documents which have been received from or sent to Quackwatch, its employees, agents, consultants or the like (hereinafter, Quackwatch) by the DOH, MQAC, DQAC or the Board of Pharmacy, its employees, appointees, agents, consultants or the like (the State).

(2) Testimony from anyone employed by the State about the relationship between Quackwatch and the State, including, but not limited to, identification of specific cases in which Quackwatch was the complainant or the first contact about a Washington health practitioner who was targeted for investigation by the State.

(3) Any documents in the possession of the State that discloses or discusses the creation or funding of Quackwatch by pharmaceutical companies, individually or in concert, including companies which manufacture mercury amalgam dental fillings and thimerosal preservatives for vaccines.

(4) Quackwatch email newsletters in the possession of the State and the identification of the individuals of the State who receives or received those newsletters.

(5) Any documents related to the hiring of Quackwatch witnesses for prosecution of disciplinary matters by the State, including any that discuss the expertise or qualifications of any of those witnesses and justifications for hiring such witnesses despite lack of expertise in the subject matter areas for which they testify. Question responsible parties for the State about this practice.

(6) The American Medical Association and the Washington Medical Association generally require that a witness for disciplinary hearings have 3 years of experience within the last 5 years in the specific field in which they will be testifying or, that they be a College Professor with extensive knowledge of the specialty. Documents should be obtained which show whether that requirement was or was not met by witnesses hired by, identified by or otherwise associated with Quackwatch and used in any manner by the State in investigating or prosecuting health care providers by the State. Question responsible parties for the State about this issue. (The use of Dr. Harriet Hall as a witness against Joyce Tasker is an example of this issue.)
http://www.quackwatch.org/09Advisors/medadvbd.html

(7) Question responsible parties as to the extent of the activities of investigation and/or prosecution that is/has been delegated to Quackwatch by the State. Would such delegation be in compliance with state laws?

(8) Documents which discuss how targeted health practitioners are chosen for investigation. Is there a difference in the procedures for targeting health practitioners for investigations instigated by Quackwatch versus other investigations? Question responsible parties for the State about these issues.

(9) Documents which address who has the authority to conduct surveillance of targeted health practitioners, how it is done, the length of time such surveillance is countenanced and which cases warrant this treatment. Question responsible parties about the incidence of surveillance of alternative or holistic practitioners versus MDs, DDSs or Pharmacists. Is there a disproportionate use of surveillance for them?

(10) What statutory authority exists that authorizes DQAC to investigate, prosecute, discipline and/or remove from practice dentists who give truth- ful information to patients or the public about mercury in dental fillings? (See my enclosed testimony to a Washington Legislative House Committee.)

(11) The purpose of DQAC is to protect the public when they receive dental treatment in the state of Washington. Question responsible State officials about why DQAC is not requiring all dentists to use dental informed consent forms that accurately explain the dangers of mercury in dental fillings, which at a minimum would mean passing on the warnings provided on the amalgam product by its manufacturers to dentists. (Example: Mercury is a neurotoxin, a carcinogen, a teratogen [causes birth defects], a mutagen, a nephrotoxin [causes kidney damage], and is life threatening.)

(12) Question responsible parties about the lack of accurate DOH web site information about mercury amalgam dental fillings and its health risks; again, at a minimum providing the same warnings that the manufacturers provide to dentists.

(13) Obtain documents related to the State procedures used to investigate and prosecute health care practitioners and review to assure that there is adequate due process to protect the livelihoods of those being investigated. Is there a requirement for substantial evidence that a health practitioner is causing harm to patients prior to ceasing property and/or issuing a Cease and Desist Order? What legal authority exists for the State to claim as "harm," the delay of conventional, allopathic treatments? (See enclosed Plan of 1996 by National Association of Medical Boards asserting treatment delays as a source of patient "harm." There is no recognition that allopathic medicine is responsible for hundreds of thousands of cases of health harm, including over 100,000 deaths a year from "properly prescribed" pharmaceuticals.)

(14) Obtain documents and question responsible parties about whether there is a disproportionate number of investigations of holistic health care practitioners without any patient complaint, as opposed to allopathic practitioners without any patient complaint. (See enclosed case of Debra Hopkins, DDS.)

(15) The State is telling health and dental practitioners what they can and cannot say on their websites. What authority does it have to do that and how does that comport with individual constitutional rights of free speech?

(16) Health and dental practitioners have a property right in their right to practice their profession, whether it is a licensed or unlicensed profession. When holistic practitioners are investigated and charged with violation of a state law or state administrative rule, they are not informed of who is their accuser. While the constitution only requires that a person charged with a crime is entitled to a right to face their accuser, why doesn't the State, in the interests of due process and fairness and protection of property rights at least inform the investigatee of the complainant? Holistic practitioners seldom have complaints from patients, only from competing health care practitioners. The State should be protecting holistic practitioners from abuse by other practitioners who are presently protected by state monopolies.

(17) The State will often, during an investigation, change the charges against the holistic practitioners. It seems to be a recognition that the original charges will not stand up to scrutiny and then there is a search to find something to stick. The last gasp attempts are often record keeping charges. What is the statistical disparity between holistic practitioners and other practitioners being charged with record keeping violations? Again, the majority of health care practitioners, which run the QACs, use their positions to suppress competition.

(18) Why is the State keeping DQAC member, John Davis, on the Commission when he has such blatant conflicts of interest? He works for Dentist Advantage which insures dentists. His loyalty belongs to the dentists who are insured by DA and for whom it provides a legal defense and legal counsel. He has access to confidential information about many dentist-insureds. Dr. Davis is also a Medicaid investigator for the State. Again, he has access to confidential files related to dentist-providers. His loyalty in this position is to the State and the citizens of Washington. Furthermore, Dr. Davis is a member of DQAC which investigates, prosecutes and judges dentists who are alleged to violate state laws or state administrative rules. Again, he has access to confidential files; and, his loyalty is owed to Washington dental consumers. The Washington Bar Association would never allow a lawyer to prosecute and defend the same case, why can Dr. Davis? (See enclosures on Dr. Hopkins' case.)

(19) Does Dr. Davis investigate dentists solely on the basis that they are mercury-free dentists? Does he keep mercury-free dentists from being able to be Medicaid providers because he has personally determined that a mercury-free practice is not the standard of care in Washington? Has this resulted in discrimination against low income people who are on Medicaid who must get mercury fillings or no fillings?

(20) Mercury amalgam manufacturers have warned that amalgam is contraindicated for pregnant women and children 6 and under. http://www.altcorp.com/DentalInformation/amalgamcomp.htm Why doesn't the State have administrative rules requiring dentists to give health warnings to these vulnerable populations as is required by the common law doctrine of informed consent? (California and Canada do have such warnings.)

(21) In 1996, all state medical boards in the nation attended the National Association of Medical Boards meeting and agreed to take action against health practitioners who did not practice within a narrow definition of the standard of care (SOC). They deemed all of these health practitioners to be "quacks" and noted that they were taking an increasing market share from the SOC practitioners. A primary concern which was articulated was their belief that it is harmful to the public to use holistic practitioners because it defers the timeliness of obtaining allopathic treatments, which for a great part means the prescribing and taking of pharmaceutical drugs. After this meeting, Quackwatch came into existence. It is believed that it is funded by the pharmaceutical companies and it works with state QACs (including dental and pharmacy) to suppress competition from holistic practitioners. What role, if any, did MQAC play in the 1996 meeting and what actions did it take in response to the resolutions/actions taken subsequent to that meeting as advanced by the national association or Quackbusters? Ask for all documents which refer to this meeting or to the creation of Quackbusters. (See Plan of 1996 enclosed.)

(22) MQAC is investigating and prosecuting holistic practitioners who are using the Voll Electrodermal Screening Devices (biofeedback devices). WAC 296-21-280 allows MDs and nonMDs to use the Voll Electrodermal Screening Devices. These devices are also approved by the FDA as Class II medical devices in the same category as surgical drapes and power wheelchairs. 21 CFR Section 8081 (1996); (b) Section 521(a), codified as 21 USCV Section 360K(a) governs this case. MQAC is prosecuting Geoff Ames, Joyce Tasker, Monte Kline for use of this device. This Committee should ask Legislative Counsel, or the Attorney General's Office for a legal opinion as to whether MQAC has exceeded its statutory authority in prosecuting these health practitioners (PhDs, nurses, naturopaths or others) for use of FDA approved medical devices that are also specifically allowed to be used by MDs and nonMDs by WAC administrative rule. To the extent that the medical device is used for other than FDA approved uses, can MQAC explain how that differs from prescribing prescription drugs for "off label" uses not approved by the FDA?

(23) MQAC is accusing a colon therapist/hydropath of practicing medicine without a license. (Dirk Yow) The MQAC should be asked how many MDs are colon therapists/hydropaths and why this treatment necessarily should be limited to MDs. This Committee should ask Legislative Counsel or the Attorney General's Office for a legal opinion as to whether MQAC has the statutory authority to regulate colon therapists/hydropaths. How many colon therapists/hydropaths practice in the State? How many have been investigated and/or prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license? If Dirk Yow is the first or the only one, how much did this prosecution have to do with that the fact that Mr. Yow is a highly visible and much sought after lecturer and writer and advertises his practice? If Mr. Yow's outspoken advocacy for his practice is the basis for this prosecution, it would appear to be an attempt to suppress his free speech rights and to limit his right to practice his profession which is not a licensed profession, but one in which he has invested substantial sums of money for education and training and in which he has a property right of great value.

(24) The Board of Pharmacy has investigated and charged Barbara Brewitt with practicing medicine without a license and making "drug" products in violation of the law. Barbara Brewitt manufactures homeopathic products for treatment, especially treatments of children with autism. The Board of Pharmacy has confiscated her products without any due process whatsoever, and has not paid her just compensation for the fair market value of the products seized, in violation of state and federal laws and state and federal constitutional provisions. By what statutory authority does the Board of Pharmacy take these actions? This Committee should ask Legislative Counsel, or the Attorney General's Office for a legal opinion as to whether the Board of Pharmacy is acting within its statutory authority. These actions strike the Mercury Awareness Team as an attempt by Pharmaceutical interests to suppress competition from alternative, non-drug, holistic treatments and is motivated by economics, not public protection. No customer of Barbara Brewitt's has made a complaint and, indeed, many of them are extremely concerned that they do not have access to treatment options that they desire.

(25) The State often fines health practitioners as a result of investigations and prosecutions. Is it possible that the fines being imposed create a conflict of interest for the State? This Committee should ask whether the fines imposed on health practitioners through the disciplinary process goes back into the State's General Fund, or if they fund the MQAC, DQAC or Board of Pharmacy budgets. If the funds are needed for the budgets of these entities, it presents a serious conflict of interest. There is a need to have a steady succession of investigations, prosecutions and imposition of fines to meet budget. If these Commissions and Boards can be used by the majority (non holistic practitioners) to create budget funds and suppress competition at the same time, the motivation to disproportionately prosecute holistic practitioners would be almost irresistible. Do the statistics of investigations/prosecutions/fines show a disproportionate number of holistic practitioners being targeted the State?

(26) How can these prosecutions of holistic practitioners be reconciled with RCW 18.120.010, which states legislative intent NOT to impose regulations upon "any health profession except for the exclusive purpose of protecting the public interests?"

You will undoubtedly have questions of your own as well.


CONCLUSION:

Mercury Awareness Team represents Consumers. We want health care choices. We do not want a drug/allopathic medicine monopoly. We do not want our treatment options limited to pharmaceutical treatments of symptoms. We need holistic practitioners to help us remove the many toxins we have been exposed to internally and externally which have compromised our health in so many different ways. We deeply and sincerely believe that without access to holistic practitioners we cannot get well and stay well. We ask you, our elected representative, to represent our healthcare interests in your oversight role on this Committee. Thank you for you consideration.

Sincerely,
Ann Clifton
Co-Chair, Mercury Awareness Team

Cc:
Governor Christine Gregoire
Senator Lisa Brown
Representative Frank Chopp, Speaker of the House
Senator Marilyn Rasmussen
Representative Bill Hinkle


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