Politics of Medicine
Another Attack on Alternative Medicine
By D. J. Fletcher
Distinguished physician Serafina Corsello, M. D.,
One of the nation's leading integrative physicians, Serafina Corsello, M.D., has been accused by the New York State Board for the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), an arm of the health department, of "gross negligence and incompetence." The OPMC charged that Dr. Corsello "deviated from accepted standards of medical practice," and suggested that she just turn in her license.
Dr. Corsello has been in practice for 37 years and is renowned for her expertise in endocrine disorders, women's health, longevity medicine and other areas. None of her patients has ever been injured or killed by her treatment. In fact, her patients generally improve or are cured, even though many come to her after all conventional medical efforts have failed.
In addition to being a skillful doctor who knows the innate healing powers of the body, Dr. Corsello is a tough fighter. She is standing up to her accusers, knowing that she has done nothing more—and nothing less—for three-plus decades than practice and promote good preventive and integrative healthcare as well as careful diagnostic work.
And what are Dr. Corsello's sins? She keeps people out of hospitals and uses injections of vitamins and chelation therapy. The accusation of "excessive testing" is a cover-up for the above. Never mind that Dr. Corsello believes she has to know what's wrong with a patient before she decides on treatment. She doesn't just see a patient for 10 minutes and then pull out a prescription pad. And never mind that, as a highly experienced, classically trained physician, she understands the use of judicious testing—a valuable diagnostic practice that has fallen out of favor in the HMO era.
To put this situation into perspective, one must know that Dr. Corsello is not the only fine physician under attack in the U.S. There exists a campaign to deny Americans access to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In 1997, for example, the Federation of State Medical Boards (www.fsmb.org), reported its intent to investigate CAM practices. The FSMB slammed CAM by lumping together the following definitions: "... For the purposes of this report, the terms 'alternative medicine/therapy' and/or 'complementary medicine' have not been utilized by the committee due to a lack of consensus among both practitioners and the public as to their meaning. The committee has chosen to use the term 'questionable health care practices' to include those treatments, procedures and/or promotions, conventional or unconventional, which may be unsafe and thereby considered a risk to the public's health, safety and welfare .... "
While the FSMB and the individual state medical boards, along with the state health departments, are apparently having a hard time defining and understanding what they're investigating, they nonetheless continue their harassment. New York state, where Dr. Corsello practices, continues to be the site of a particularly strong effort to destroy "unconventional" doctors. In what Dr. Corsello has termed "the siege of Syracuse," more than a handful of highly regarded alternative practitioners in the area have been attacked since 1994 by the Office of Professional Medical Conduct.
One, Dr. Charles Gant, is nationally known for his success in treating children with ADHD. And Dr. Joseph Burrascano of East Hampton, author of a comprehensive Lyme Disease treatment protocol, has been fighting for his practice because his protocol requires longer treatment. As a result, the treatments cost the HMOs and insurance companies more money. It just doesn't seem to matter that the patients of these physicians actually benefit.
Whether or not harassed physicians win their legal battles and are allowed to continue practicing, the legal expenses involved can drain their finances. It's upsetting to think of these dedicated healthcare providers being forced to the edge of bankruptcy to defend CAM principles. Dr. Corsello, who spent more than $70,000 on legal fees in just six months last year, admits that she has had to borrow money to continue her defense.
The attack on Dr. Corsello was mounted despite the fact that New York State has a law ensuring consumers medical freedom of choice-a law passed as a result of the OPMC's attack on several other distinguished alternative physicians, including Dr. Warren Levin and Dr. Robert C. Atkins. It is clear that the OPMC is intent upon challenging the law in search/of a way to get past it.
Why has an attack been launched against Dr. Corsello and other CAM practitioners? Is it really to protect the American public? Or is it because the OPMC, the FSMB, the managed care industry and other members of the "conventional" medical establishment feel threatened by how fast the demand for complementary and alternative treatment options has grown?
The FSMB's own 1997 report in effect gives the answer: "It is estimated that in 1990, Americans made 425 million visits to providers of 'unconventional' medicine, exceeding the number of visits to all U.S. primary care physicians, at a cost of approximately $13.7 billion."
Obviously, Dr. Corsello's fight is not just her own fight. It's our fight. If the OPMC makes its accusations stick, it will represent another abuse of power by those who want to control CAM options. Attacks like these are limiting our freedom of medical choice. If you close your eyes now, you might not like what you see when you open them.
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Copyright March, 2001, Alternative Medicine. All rights reserved.