A Modern-Day Witch Hunt

In the summer of 1692, Salem, Massachusetts, was the site of the most deadly witch hunt in American history. Accusatory musings of two preadolescent girls set off a frenzy of hysteria that resulted in 20 executions, 19 by hanging and one by crushing. Another 150 people were imprisoned, and 17 perished. A few years later, the government made reparations to many of the families and tried to restore the reputations of those so unjustly defiled and killed, but the Salem witch trials remain testimony to the dark side of humanity.

One would think that witch-hunting would be legally and socially banned, yet it flourishes even today. Webster’s dictionary defines it as “an investigation usually conducted with much publicity, supposedly to uncover subversive political activity, disloyalty, etc., but really to harass and weaken the entire political opposition.” In the health world, witch-hunting, in its modern form, is practiced by certain members of the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF).

They’re Against Anything Outside of Conventional Medicine…

This non-profit, tax-exempt organization operates from the campus of Loma Linda University, guided by NCAHF president, William T. Jarvis, Ph.D., a Loma Linda University professor. NCAHF’s stated purpose is to “educate consumers, professionals, business people, legislators, law enforcement personnel, organizations and agencies about health fraud, misinformation, and quackery.”
Hogwash. This group seems more interested in purging the medical profession of all types of health care other than Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved prescription drugs and conventional surgery. In its eyes, if a health care professional utilizes virtually any other therapy, such as chiropractic, acupuncture or nutritional supplementation, he or she is by definition a “quack” and a “fraud.” The NCAHF is an organization dominated by a small group who liberally brand health professionals and others with whom they disagree as quacks and frauds.

…And That’s Dangerous

This group’s intolerance is dangerous. On April 7, 1997, I attended a conference on the campus of Loma Linda University entitled, “Cancer Quackery: What You Should Know!” The sole speaker was NCAHF president Dr. Jarvis, who discussed the characteristics of quacks and frauds. Dr. Jarvis ended the program with a videotape and discussion of Stanislaw Burzynski, a physician who has developed a unique cancer treatment. Dr. Jarvis held Dr. Burzynski up as an example of a typical cancer quack.
Dr. Jarvis has a Ph.D. in health education. He is not an M.D. and has never treated a patient. One would think that before mislabeling Dr. Burzynski, an M.D. and Ph.D., Jarvis would have investigated his subject. Yet Jarvis, by his own admission, had never spoken to Dr. Burzynski, never visited his clinic, and had not reviewed any of Dr. Burzynski’s patient records. (I’ve been to the Burzynski Clinic on five different occasions and have done extensive study of some of the patient records.) Dr. Jarvis did not even know that Dr. Burzynski is the principal investigator in 72 FDA-approved clinical trials! Does the FDA allow quacks and frauds to head up approved clinical trials?

I Was Escorted Out by Armed Security Guards

The Loma Linda program invited audience participation, yet when I and other people, including Mary Jo Siegel, a cancer patient who is alive because of Dr. Burzynski’s therapy, rose to counter Dr. Jarvis’ misinformed opinions, Jarvis, called armed security guards, who ejected us from the room. In the parking lot, we were kept under surveillance by guards armed with German shepherds. On the campus of a major American university, I feared for my safety and the safety of those with me.

Imagine: William Jarvis, a Loma Linda University professor, transforms the campus of that university into such a cesspool of intolerance that armed guards were used to silence informed rebuttal of his ghastly character assassination. I registered a strong letter of complaint with Loma Linda President Dr. Lyn Behrens, as did hundreds of other physicians.

Attorneys for Loma Linda, in response, distanced the university, stating that they only lease space to Jarvis and the NCAHF. However, the fact that the program took place on the campus, the president is a professor there, and NCAHF offices are on the campus, cloaks this organization with the respect and authority of the university.

Is Your Doctor on the “Quacklist?”

As bad as it seems, calling the cops to silence contrary opinions is only part of the nefarious actions of certain NCAHF members. John Renner, M.D., from Kansas City, an active board member of the NCAHF, has maintained a list of over 2,500 physicians, Ph.D.s and others he deems to be quacks and frauds. To be on this list you just need to belong to an organization that is studying nutrition or any therapy not yet approved by the FDA.

There’s a 1990 copy of the list containing 1,137 M.D.s and 52 people with double doctorates. Although the list does not appear to be in general circulation, it may have been supplied to insurance companies and state medical boards. The result could be that alternative physicians are financially blackballed, or put under additional scrutiny.

John Renner has even put Linus Pauling, Ph.D., on this quacklist. Dr. Pauling has been singled out by two authoritative sources as one of the top 20 scientists of all time, along with Aristotle, Galileo and Newton. The only other scientist selected from the 20th century was Albert Einstein. Imagine, John Renner, a relative “no-weight” compared to Dr. Pauling, labels the only person to be awarded two unshared Nobel prizes as a fraud.

Some NCAHF Board Members are Loose Cannons

In a nefarious personal attack on a health care provider, Victor Herbert, M.D., a NCAHF board member, lodged a complaint with the New York State authorities against Warren Levin, M.D., a nutritionally oriented physician. Incredibly, Dr. Herbert was the only complainant (there were no patient complaints at all) and, even more bizarre, Dr. Herbert was the only witness against Dr. Levin. Typically, in such hearings, there are patient complaints against the doctor, and expert witnesses to support accusations. This travesty droned on for 14 years and caused the bankruptcy of Dr. Levin.

Finally, the Regents of the University of the State of New York threw the case out and were particularly harsh in their assessment of Victor Herbert. In a formal hearing, Victor Herbert went nuts. According to the Regents’ transcript of the hearing, Dr. Herbert’s behavior was “inappropriate and unacceptable,” characterized by “inflammatory remarks and inappropriate outbursts,” and he used slanderous terms such as “liar,” “quack,” “obnoxious,” “vicious,” “scum bag,” and “fraud.”

Dr. Levin is back helping his patients in New York.

The NCAHF: Our Modern Witch Hunters

So, there you have it. The National Council Against Health Fraud: What a group! Consider the actions of four of its board members: Jarvis, Renner, Barrett and Herbert. Jarvis silences informed opinion with guard dogs, Renner keeps quacklists that could slander and harm thousands of professionals, Barrett and Herbert engage in improper behavior to destroy professional reputations of honest health-care practitioners, and Herbert behaves uncontrollably in a formal hearing. Can you believe that Loma Linda University allows any of this to go on?

I sent the president of Loma Linda, Dr. Lyn Behrens (1) the deposition of Steven Barrett taken in the ADA defamation case, (2) the “quack list” compiled by John Renner, and (3) the adjudication of Dr. Levin by the New York State University Regents which, in my opinion, questioned the propriety of Victor Herbert.

I also initiated a letter-writing campaign to Dr. Behrens. It astounds me that a major American university, bedecked in all those platitudes about open-minded quests for truth, would house the NCAHF. Truth-seeking is incompatible with witch-hunting.

It’s time for the NCAHF to go away.

Modified from Health & Healing, October 1997, with permission from Phillips Health, LLC. © copyright 1997, Phillips Publishing, Inc. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, call (800) 539-8219.