Patient says she was “duped” by chiropractic doctor’s ads

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/27697281/detail.html

According to the above story, a woman has gone to the media (I couldn’t tell whether she is suing the DC or not) to complain that she was scammed by the DC.  I’ve summarized the facts of the story:

  • The woman, Beverly Yardley, had lost her job.  She found herself with no insurance and “some kind of problem” in her neck.  She knew she needed help a medical doctor could provide, but without insurance, she wasn’t sure how she would get that help.
  • Then she saw the DC’s ad on TV, advertising Functional Endocrinology, along with an offer for a free consult and thought that was great.  She said that the free consult is what “really drew me in”.
  • The free consult was a group presentation, at the end of which she waited until other people had gone.  She specifically stated that she “wanted to make sure she caught” the doctor before he left.  She also stated that she “tried to specifically ask him what would be causing this lump.”  He told her that it was “some kind of thyroid disorder, probably”.  He said, “we’ll get you on a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle.”
  • Then suddenly she was able to get in to see medical doctors at the area university hospital via her primary care doctor and they handed down an immediate diagnosis: thyroid cancer.  She was admitted to the hospital and only when she saw the DC’s ads still running on TV did she make the call to the media.
  • Then she and investigators started combing the DC’s ads and although they found the letters DC after his name, they couldn’t find any mention of the word “chiropractor”.
  • Another lady named Foster called the media after the DC’s office told her that her visits would be covered by insurance and they weren’t.  And then thought she’d been duped because the doctor couldn’t guarantee her results.

A reporter from the news channel interviewed the DC, who graciously gave an extensive interview.  I’ve summarized the facts revealed in the interview:

  • He said he is not a (medical) endocrinologist and doesn’t claim to be.
  • He considers himself a healthcare provider, not really a physician.
  • He changed the name of his business fairly often in recent years, which incidentally adds to the confusion.
  • He didn’t have the supporting research studies readily available nearby but “could easily get them”.
  • His up-front fees (initial investment) are fairly high.  Most patients elect for some kind of third party financing.
  • He sells supplements in his office for a profit and does not believe it’s an unethical conflict of interest to do so.
  • He says he operates completely within the scope of his practice.
  • He also operates a second business, which is a marketing method other docs can use as a vehicle to get started, market themselves, and get more patients.
  • He’s under investigation from several fronts, but is not concerned.
  • The Colorado chiropractic state board sent a generic response to the media’s inquiry, but wouldn’t comment specifically.

This is a witch-hunt, pure and simple.  Why?  Let’s pick this apart, shall we?

We have a possibly impure motive on the part of the first lady, Yardley.  When people find themselves out of work, they can get desperate.  Those with lower moral codes can be tempted to find alternate ways to bring home the dough, and lawsuits can definitely serve that purpose.  DCs are ripe targets because 1) they’re doctors, and 2) so many of us HAVE used some shady practices.  Supporting evidence includes her desire to get something for nothing, jumping at the chance for the free consult and cornering him after other people had left for some free advice.  While the evidence is hardly conclusive, it’s definitely worth keeping in the back of your mind.

I find it very strange that she decided not to seek conventional medical help, despite the fact that she “knew she needed” that type of care that “they (medical doctors) could provide”.  She voluntarily opted for another route, seemingly based on her lack of insurance coverage.  In other words, if someone else couldn’t pay the bill, she wasn’t going to utilize that option.

I find it a little odd that since DC *was* used in his ads (as we find out a little later), that she didn’t go research the unfamiliar title to see who she was dealing with.

Let’s talk about the presentation. I find it a little strange that she seemed miffed that the free appointment was a group presentation.  Where in the conventional medical world will you ever find a medical doctor willing to give of their time and information for free?  I would tell her to shut up and be glad she got anything for free, with a reminder that beggars can’t be choosers.  It’s a free appointment – group or not, take it or leave it.

Now let’s talk about the post-presentation encounter. Again, she specifically waited until other people had left (a private environment, with the added bonus of being free of witnesses) and, without having paid a cent, demanded an on-the-fly answer to her problem.  I take several very serious issues with this.  First, I’m not a fan of people who will tenaciously chisel away at you for free advice.  Those people rub me the wrong way.  That aside, she was demanding a shot-from-the-hip answer without having completed a single page of intake form questionnaires, a single round of testing, a physical examination, or even a more in-depth appointment to discuss her individual symptoms.  This doctor was given absolutely NO information other than a “problem in her neck”.

Then she crucifies him for his answer.  His answer, “a thyroid disorder, probably” was intelligent and correct.  The most common cause of that type of issue, especially among women, IS a thyroid disorder.  And, he added the magic word: “probably”.  The news story didn’t specify, but my experience is that prospective patients don’t stop there; they persist.  They want to know everything – what their problem is, what could be causing it, and what they can do about it – all without spending anything.  So although the media only mentioned that “we’ll get you on a healthy diet/lifestyle”, that was most likely not something he added of his own free will; it was probably a response to further questioning from the prospective patient, wanting to know how he “treats” that sort of thing.

Within a few days, she is magically able to get in to see her conventional healthcare provider.  Am I the only one who thinks that’s a little suspicious?  She couldn’t do that before, for some reason, and now suddenly, within just a few days, she can.  Not only that but she is immediately diagnosed and admitted to the hospital.  She thought nothing of the DC functional endocrinologist until she saw his ads on TV again.  THEN she pounced.  And who did she call?  If she was really serious, had really been wronged, and had a leg to stand on, she would’ve consulted an attorney.  But when you can’t get legal representation and you want to make a big stink anyway, you call the media.

The media will take any dirt against a chiropractic doctor and run with it, too.  Look, if the doc actually had something to hide, he would’ve done what every other large institution or Fortune 500 company does when they find themselves in potentially hot water: they remain silent.  But no, this DC returned requests for comment, ending up in an extensive interview which appears to be twisted out of context.  I believe the word is “baiting”.

The fact is, this DC was perfectly legal in everything he was doing.  Nutritional support, supplementation (yes, even selling them in-house for a profit), ordering lab work, and helping with conditions other than chiropractic ARE within a DC’s scope of practice in all but the least-enlightened states.  He didn’t disguise himself as an MD; it is mentioned that DC is indeed on all of his advertising.  The players in the news story are miffed that he didn’t specifically say “chiropractor” but let’s face it – most people equate “chiropract*” with adjustments, headaches, and back pain, not gland function and blood chemistry.  To force him to specify “chiropractic” is actually an inaccurate description of what he does and would turn most people away, since they would falsely believe that a “chiropractor couldn’t possibly help” with those types of problems, and those people would never give it the chance long enough to experience the benefits of this approach.

It’s also not illegal to sell supplements in your office.  In fact, it’s not even immoral to do so if the DC is simply giving the patients what they need and doesn’t over-recommend everything to everyone just to make a quick hundred bucks.  Why is it not immoral?  Well, look at it this way: MDs don’t need to do this because they have a rockin’ support system from the pharmaceutical companies, who are ALWAYS advertising.  They advertise everywhere.  When they want to boost their numbers, they simply invent diseases and disorders, come up with fancy names, shorten them to impressive-sounding acronyms, assign them ICD-9 codes, and the rest is history.  Then these drugs are pumped and hyped at every opportunity, through any possible avenue, finally convincing perfectly healthy people that they need yet another pill.  (By perfectly healthy, I mean that they don’t have a disorder – they may, however, be feeling symptoms brought on by poor lifestyle habits, but it certainly, in most cases, has not yet reached the point where a side-effect-laden medication is called for.)

A DC has absolutely NONE of that support system.  They have ZERO promotion other than themselves.  There are no “For Your Health” news segments telling people to get in and see their chiropractic doctor.  There are no direct-to-consumer ads telling people to see their chiropractor to see if spinal decompression is right for them.  There are no PSAs advocating the idea that you only get one body and recommending a healthy diet or exercise.  And there certainly isn’t the immense referral network of practitioners with waiting lists of patients spreading any of that love our direction.  So, to survive and thrive, we must resort to other measures, none of which, I remind everyone, are illegal.  If we’re going to tell a DC that s/he can’t sell supplements for a profit, well, then I guess a medical doctor can’t mark up lab work prices either, huh?  A-ha!  (And they do.  I was told that lab work profits can add up to as much as 60% of an office’s revenue in a conventional office.)

My questions are, exactly who got duped?  If  Yardley somehow “got duped”, then how?  What specifically did he cost her?  How did he harm her?  Is a DC supposed to have x-ray vision and some kind of ESP so that when freeloading prospect corners him to press for information, he doesn’t get sued into oblivion?  Is a prospective patient entitled to answers without undergoing any testing, questionnaires, or examination?  Is a DC supposed to say anything BESIDES “healthy diet and healthy lifestyle” when talking about their approach to physical disorders?  (I mean, it’s not like he can prescribe anything or perform surgery, so healthy diet and lifestyle are about the only options he has left!)  Is he just supposed to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t answer personal questions without an appointment” or “I’m sorry, I don’t render professional opinions without gaining more information from you”?  Hint: the answer to that last question is a resounding YES.  He was being too nice, too helpful.  And based on the information revealed in the story, that’s about the ONLY thing that DC did wrong.

(Editor’s Note: Upon further investigation, I found a few other problems with Dr. Credeur’s site and claims, but none of these were revealed in the original story that aired in Denver.)

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