Fight for Your Life

State medical boards are persecuting alternative physicians for trying too hard to cure their patients.

While the public clamors for more access to alternative medical therapies, alternative physicians are still being singled out by state medical boards. New York might be the worst offender. The physicians they have prosecuted reads like a "Who's Who" of alternative medicine. In the past that state's Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) has brought charges against Dr. Robert Atkins, whose low-carbohydrate diet is finally receiving validation after 30 years of professional ridicule and harassment; Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, who recently received a $1.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to test his alternative cancer therapy; Dr. Warren Levin, who opened the first holistic health center in New York in 1974; cancer pioneers Drs. Emmanuel Revici and Michael Schachter; and famed Lyme disease doctors Joseph Burrascano and Charles Gant.

The latest outrage is the OPMC's revocation of the medical license of Dr. Serafina Corsello. Dr. Corsello is an internationally respected clinician, lecturer and author. She was one of 25 physicians chosen by the National Institutes of Health to participate in forming the NIH's Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992.

The OPMC has been trying to get Dr. Corsello for over 25 years. They held their first hearing for her in 1976, not because of any patient complaints, but because they heard that she was giving her patients nutritional IV's. She explained what she was doing and why, and the OPMC was unable to find any grounds to discipline her.

In 1982, Dr. Corsello's name appeared in a book in connection with ozone therapy, in which a small amount of a patient's blood is infused with oxygen isotopes and returned to the patient in order to kill pathogens. Again, there had been no patient complaint - and in fact, Dr. Corsello did not practice ozone therapy. Case dismissed.

Other incidents followed, which cost her much time, worry, and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Then, in 1997, Dr. Corsello heard from an inside source that the OPMC had finally determined a way to charge her that would succeed. Again, without any patient complaints to instigate an investigation, charges were brought against her for "excessive testing."

What is "excessive testing?"

What kind of tests did Dr. Corsello order that were considered "excessive?" One example is that when a female patient would come to Dr. Corsello complaining of perimenopause or menopause symptoms, Dr. Corsello would usually order a hormone-level test before prescribing any type of hormone replacement therapy. This differs from the usual medical practice of just prescribing standardized doses of hormones based on a patient's description of her symptoms. Which practice sounds like better medicine?

Because of an alleged technical mistake by a previous attorney, who the State says did not file a written response to the charges in time, the OPMC judge ruled that Dr. Corsello had, by default, admitted wrongdoing. And thus, on September 25, 2001, the OPMC revoked Dr. Corsello's license without evidence of one patient being harmed and without Dr. Corsello being given the opportunity to answer the charges in court. Dr. Corsello has appealed the ruling and a new hearing was set for September.

The Need for Medical Freedom

"At the very time consumers are demanding CAM [complementary and alternative medical] treatments and more physicians are using them, the state medical boards are moving in the opposite direction, making it tougher for patients to get those services." These words are not mine but were written this spring by Drs. Michael Arnold Glueck and Robert J. Cihak in an opinion column for WorldNetDaily.

Neither of these physicians are in the habit of defending alternative medicine. Both men are Harvard-trained diagnostic radiologists. Perhaps their stature gives them the courage to speak their minds. "Harassment and censure of physicians for the use of CAM therapies," they wrote, "even in the face of successful treatment and patient satisfaction, reveal a lack of understanding, education, and tolerance on the part of medical boards."

I consider medical freedom as important as any other issue facing our country today, as important as terrorism or corporate corruption. We are in the midst of a plague of biblical proportions: Who does not have a family member afflicted, or is afflicted themselves, with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, mental illness, or chronic pain? There are nontoxic, alternative therapies that work better to treat these conditions than our pharmaceutically-based conventional practices. I have seen this first-hand with hundreds of patients.

Not all alternative therapies are antagonistic to conventional medicine: They often complement each other and, when used in tandem, are what is termed "complementary" medicine.

Neither is every physician who calls him or herself alternative competent or even ethical, any more or less than conventional doctors. But patients have a right to decide what kinds of therapies they receive, with requirements of informed consent built in as safeguards.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and personal physician to George Washington said:"Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship to restrict the art of healing to one class of men and deny equal privileges to others; the Constitution of the Republic should make a special privilege for medical freedoms as well as religious freedom." It is tragic that this prophetic warning was not acted upon two centuries ago, but it is not too late.

What You Can Do

You can make a difference. On April 22, the New York State Assembly passed a resolution requesting that "insurance companies and the Office of Professional Medical Conduct cease and desist from targeting physicians," such as Burrascano and Gant, who treat Lyme disease outside the scope of accepted practice. The reason why, according to the resolution, was that "Hundreds of Lyme disease patients have contacted legislators, expressing their concern that the intrusion of the Office of Professional Medical Conduct into their personal physician's treatment protocol is having a chilling effect on their doctor's ability to provide successful treatment for them."

Currently there is a federal "Access to Medical Treatment Act" introduced in both the House of Representatives (HR 1964) and Senate (S 1378).

It has wide-ranging ramifications and numerous patient safeguards. To find out what its provisions are, how it would give you access to a full range of medical options, and what you can do to encourage its passage, contact the American Association for Health Freedom at or call 800-230-2762.

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