Society for Science-Based Medicine

Covering issues concerning the Society and Science-Based Medicine.

Florida files second complaint against Brian Clement

Brian Clement, who runs the Hippocrates Health Clinic in West Palm Beach, Florida, has a sordid history of cancer quackery. Actually, his expertise in quackery extends beyond cancer treatments, but cancer seems to be something of a specialty of his.

Clement's exploits were expertly chronicled in the Canadian media (more links here). (Florida media, having engaged in some pathetically credulous coverage of Clement, picked up the scent only after the Canadians had done all of the prep work for them.)  His modus operandi is to give lectures as an "expert" in "natural" cancer treatments, preying on the desperately ill and their families by attracting them with claims that treatment at Hippocrates can "reverse" cancer and "heal" cancer and and other diseases.

Clement's notoriety in Canada grew out of one of these lectures. He overblown claims attracted two families, who withdrew their girls from conventional cancer treatment in favor of, among other things, a visit to Hippocrates. This cost about $18,000 each, some of it from community fundraising.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, one of the girls died. Fortunately, the other girl restarted chemotherapy and has a chance to live.

 

After decades of operating in Florida, Clement hit a legal snag when the State ordered him to cease and desist the practice of medicine without a license and to pay a fine. That didn't last long. The Department of Health, citing a lack of evidence, backed off. 

Now the Department of Health has issued a second complaint, this time charging that Clement illegally used the initials "NMD," which stands for "Naturopathic Medical Doctor," after his name on the Hippocrates website. Clement is a licensed nutritional counselor in Florida, but is not an NMD.  (Florida used to licensed naturopaths, but stopped issuing licenses in the 1950s, although the state allowed those with ND licenses to continue their practices. To my knowledge, none of these licensees are still practicing.)

Based on this, one might say that the Department of Health is charging Clement with practicing quackery without a license, but that's not how they see it. 

Florida is using his status as a nutritional counselor licensee as a springboard from which to launch this 3-count complaint.  As with all types of health care practitioner licensing, nutritional counselors are required to follow certain laws and administrative rules.  The complaint alleges Clement violated 3 separate provisions in advertising himself as an NMD: 

  • Count I: Failure to maintain acceptable standards of practice and accurately present professional qualifications.
  • Count II: Providing false or misleading information regarding the status of licensure, professional qualifications or educational credentials.
  • Count III: Making misleading, deceptive or fraudulent representations in or related to the practice of the licensee's profession.

The complaint seeks an order from the Board of Medicine (which hears complaints against licensed nutritional counselors) imposing "one or more" of the following penalties:

  • revocation or suspension of his license
  • imposition of a fine
  • probation
  • corrective action
  • remedial education
  • any other relief the Board deems appropriate 

The complaint has not been posted on the Department of Health's website, presumably because it must wait 10 days to make the complaint available to to the public. A copy was mailed to me because I was the complainant in the unlicensed practice case and, apparently, I am considered the complainant in this case. 

"Nutrition counselors" are no longer licensed in Florida, but those, like Clement, who hold a nutrition counselor license can still practice. The state now licenses only registered dietitians and (assuming the Governor signs recently-passed legislation) registered dietician/nutritionists, who must meet more rigorous requirements than nutrition counselors. 

Nutrition counselors are limited in their practices to 

advising and assisting individuals or groups on appropriate nutrition intake by integrating information from the nutrition assessment.

A "nutrition assessment" is 

the evaluation of the nutrition needs of individuals or groups, using appropriate data to determine nutrient needs or status and make appropriate nutrition recommendations.

 If Clement loses his license he will no longer be able to evaluate a person's nutrition needs and advise him or her on "appropriate nutrition intake." However, there in an exception to the licensing requirement in state law for 

A person who markets or distributes food, food materials, or dietary supplements, or any person who engages in the explanation of the use and benefits of those products or the preparation of those products, if that person does not engage for a fee in dietetics and nutrition practice or nutrition counseling.

Which appears to be a gigantic hole through which Clement could drive his lucrative wheat-grass juice and dietary supplement sales. As long as his bad advice falls into the "engages in the explanation of the use and benefits" category and there is no separate fee for that advice (as opposed to the product itself), it doesn't seem there would be any problem. His wife, Anna Maria Gahns Clement is also a licensed Nutrition Counselor and could perform those services is his license is lifted.

Even if he loses his license, Clement will still have plenty of wiggle room to give his lectures, woo clients, and make money off the misfortune of others. And, once again, the State of Florida will have failed to protect the public from snake-oil salesmen. Perhaps we should change the state logo from the "Sunshine State" to the "Snake-Oil State."

 

 

Points of Interest 05/05/2015
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