CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Disciplinary charges dropped against holistic psychiatrist practicing energy medicine

The Maryland Board of Physicians has dismissed its disciplinary case against a holistic psychiatrist who practices orthomolecular psychiatry and energy medicine.

The case involves Alice W. Lee-Bloem, MD. In an email sent by someone who runs a school teaching energy medicine, I learned that:

The Maryland Board began peer review proceedings against Dr. Lee-Bloem after receiving a letter of complaint from a patient's ex-partner, who had never been involved in the patient's treatment. The ex-partner had a hostile relationship with the patient and objected to the patient's preference for integrative medicine. The patient immediately wrote a letter to the Board to ask them to drop all proceedings against Dr. Lee-Bloem, clarifying all misrepresentations in the ex-partner's letter of complaint. But the Maryland Board chose to ignore the patient's request and moved forward with the peer review proceedings in August, 2006.

The Board's actions were suspect at best:

• First, in an apparent attempt to block access to important information from the patient and to minimize the importance of the patient's satisfaction with Dr. Lee-Bloem's medical care, the Board prohibited the state peer reviewers from interviewing the patient--a position that the lead peer reviewer in the case openly derided.

• Second, because the first two peer reviewers differed in their opinions about the case, a third peer reviewer was called in to break the tie. He turned out to be the last treating physician before Dr. Lee-Bloem took over--the very doctor whose treatment the patient rejected in favor of orthomolecular psychiatry. He expressed in court that he personally felt that he did not have a conflict of interest in this case and thus he did not feel compelled to disclose this information to the Board.

• Third, none of the peer reviewers had any training or clinical experience in orthomolecular psychiatry or energy medicine. This, however, did not prevent two of them from believing that they could judge a holistic psychiatrist's treatment decisions, and they proceeded to do so without any consideration for or understanding of the role of nutrition in mental health.

• And fourth, the Board deliberately and repeatedly misrepresented the patient's psychiatric condition in its own papers and in the documents given to the peer reviewers.

Despite these various manipulations, the Board failed in its attempt to support any of its charges, and the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who heard the case, Geraldine A. Klauber of the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings, dismissed all charges on September 11, 2008. She stated that as a matter of law, the Board of Physicians could not prosecute the practice of alternative medicine and energy medicine through the peer review process.

Grasping at straws to keep the prosecution alive, the Board then charged Dr. Lee-Bloem with violating the "standard of care" of that one patient. But after a three-day trial, the ALJ wrote a 50-page decision stating that the Board had no legal grounds to prosecute Dr. Lee-Bloem in the first place, having failed to define what the "standard of care" was, let alone convince her of any violations of it.

This is good news for the physician involved, although it is not a legal carte blanche for all integrative medicine, energy medicine, and holistic practitioners. Laws vary by state, and medical boards can be tough on practitioners who practice is way that is not recognizable according to consensus standards of care. Our law office represents clients in similar situations where judges have not been so critical of medical boards, as the standard of review grants a great deal of deference to medical board decisions. We will be reviewing the opinion and assessing its applicability to others, but in the meanwhile, it is good to take all appropriate action in seeking proper legal protection for emerging clinical practices.

Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen today.

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173