Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed against the owners of several health clinics in Oregon and Washington, who used so-called "electro-dermal testing" for diagnosis of health conditions such as food allergies, "weak organs," certain viruses and lead levels in children, when in fact, licensed health professionals describe the testing as "ineffective and possibly dangerous" or pure quackery.
Named in the lawsuit filed November 15, 2001 and in today's stipulated judgment filed in Clackamas County Circuit Court are Monte Kline of Bellevue, Washington and Shirley Hancuff of West Linn and Pacific Health Center, Inc., an Oregon corporation. Hancuff, who had until 2000 directed operations at the West Linn clinic, is now owner/franchisee and Kline, who owns two other similar clinics under the same name in Bellevue, is the franchiser and continues to perform clinical and marketing duties at the Oregon clinic.
"For too many years, the defendants aggressively marketed "electro-dermal testing" misleading the public as to its effectiveness and using phony professional qualifications in order to sell products," Myers said. "Oregonians must check credentials of health professionals and beware of unlicensed practitioners making unrealistic claims."
Acting on a complaint filed by Anthony J. Cortese, D.O., of Lake Oswego, a retired osteopathic physician and past member of the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners, Department of Justice investigators found that the Pacific Health Center claims to "integrate natural healing methods from a Christian perspective" but has no licensed health professionals among its employees. As explained in its promotional materials, the center performs "electro-dermal testing" on its customers using a galvanic skin response device that measures resistance to electric current at superficial points on the body. The defendants use the device to test for food allergies, "weak organs," nutritional deficiencies, the presence of "toxins," candida, the Epstein Barr virus and lead levels in children. They claim the testing is "an electric interview with your body" and acts similarly to the device used by the character of Dr. McCoy in the television show "Star Trek."
Based on the outcome of the testing, defendants sell customers various nutritional supplements and homeopathic remedies, charging between $249 and $349 for the test plus the costs of the supplements. The defendants use radio advertisements, seminars and promotional tapes in marketing the testing.
Justice attorneys alleged in the November lawsuit that when defendants made diagnoses of medical conditions based on test results, they violated the Unlawful Trade Practices Act by engaging in the illegal practice of medicine without a license.
In an affidavit prepared for the lawsuit, Robert R. Gatling, Jr., the director of the program operations staff of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Device Evaluation, concluded that the FDA had not received adequate, well-controlled clinical studies showing that galvanic skin response devices were safe and effective as used by the defendants. Gatling stated that if devices were sold for this purpose, they would be considered "misbranded" and "mislabeled." Dr. Stephen Barrett's "Quackwatch" (www.quackwatch.com) concludes that practitioners that use this sort of electro-diagnosis are "either delusional, dishonest or both."
Dr. Bart Duell, a well-respected endocrinologist and researcher at the Oregon Health Science University in Portland, volunteered his assistance with the investigation and prosecution. After reviewing the materials provided by the defendants', Dr. Duell concluded that there was no scientific basis for the defendants' claims and that the machine is ineffective and it is dangerous to rely on the its findings because patients might not seek the appropriate treatment for conditions that are treatable.
Justice officials also discovered that both Kline and Hancuff misrepresented their credentials and qualifications as health professionals. In promoting "electro-dermal testing," Kline claimed he was an expert in the area of nutrition and that he held a Ph.D. In fact, Kline's degree was granted by an unaccredited school, Columbia Pacific University, based solely on his prior academic and life experience, which includes a bachelor of science degree in geography from Oregon State University and a master's degree in theology from another unaccredited school in Florida. Kline did not attend any classes or write a dissertation.
Columbia Pacific University closed its doors after being sued by the California Attorney General for numerous violations and deficiencies at the school. The California lawsuit was based on findings by the Council for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education.
In Oregon, it is illegal for Kline to use the credential Ph.D. from Columbia Pacific University because the school does not have accreditation recognized by the US Department of Education or the foreign equivalent. CPU has not been approved by the Oregon Student Assistance Commission through the State Office of Degree Authorization.
Hancuff, whose formal education is limited to a high school diploma and vocational training as a nurse's aid working in nursing homes, misrepresented her qualifications as a nutritional expert and professional by using the credentials CNC for "certified nutritional consultant". In fact, Justice found that the credential CNC is not recognized by any accredited academic or governmental organization and can be obtained by paying a fee to a private company and taking an open book examination. According to Stephen Barrett, M.D., of "Quackwatch," hamsters have been successfully registered to use this credential.
In other claims, Kline misrepresented himself to be "the author of five, best-selling books in the health and nutrition field," when, in fact, three of these books are short, 30-page pamphlets. The other two, so-called books include a short, 124-page theological booklet called "Body, Mind & Health," and another book, "Eat, Drink and Be Ready," co-written with W.P. Stube, Jr. in the 1970s and was essentially a survival guide for the apocalypse.
In today's judgment, the defendants must send a letter to all current and former clients from January 1, 1998 to the present. The letter will disclose that the device used by the defendants has not been approved by the FDA for use as a testing device for the many health conditions they diagnosed and that there are no adequate, well-controlled clinical studies that show the devise is effective for these purposes. The letter also will include a statement to parents that a child's exposure to lead cannot be determined solely through "electro-dermal testing" and that they should not make decisions about their child's health and nutritional needs from information based solely on the testing. All future customers must receive the same written disclosures before receiving "electro-dermal testing."
The defendants also are required to give full refunds of the fees paid for "electro-dermal testing" to all clients from January 1, 1998 to the present, who make restitution requests within 120 days from receipt of the disclosure letter. Kline and Hancuff are liable for approximately $120,000 in refunds.
Kline cannot use the title Ph.D. or call himself a doctor in Oregon and Hancuff cannot use the credential CNC without disclosing that the credential is not recognized by any accredited academic organization or governmental credentialing body. They can not practice medicine without a license.
The defendants paid $15,000 to the Justice Consumer Protection and Education Fund.
Consumers wanting information about this case and health fraud quackery may contact the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Dr. Anthony J. Cortese, Lake Oswego, (503) 636-8026
Robert R. Gatling, Jr., FDA, Maryland (301) 594-1190, ext. 140
Dr. Bart Duell, OHSU, Portland, (503) 494-2007
Dr. Stephen Barrett, Pennsylvania, (610) 437-1795