Rod Keller is back to help us by examining Scientology’s footprint on the web…
David Minkoff is one of the few medical doctors who is currently a member of Scientology. (With the death of Megan Shields, perhaps he’s the only one.) The organization is well known for being hostile towards psychiatry, but that extends to traditional medicine in general. The book Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard set the precedent that most illnesses are to be considered psychosomatic in nature, and should be treated using Hubbard’s brand of counseling, called “auditing.”
Pharmaceuticals are viewed with suspicion. Many members do not visit a doctor, preferring instead the services of one the many chiropractors who are Scientologists, but these are not authorized to prescribe medicine. If you are a Scientologist living in Clearwater, Florida and need a doctor, Minkoff may be your only choice. He is a medical doctor who can prescribe, but a look at his website shows that he also offers an arsenal of alternative therapies to patients so that drugs can be avoided as much as possible.
Scientology watchers know him best from his involvement in the tragic 1995 death of Lisa McPherson. McPherson was taken by Scientologists from Morton Plant Hospital to the Fort Harrison Hotel following a minor traffic accident. In an attempt to calm her during a psychotic break, Scientology staff members called Minkoff, who was not present, and asked for and received prescriptions for valium and chloral hydrate. That he had not seen his patient before doing so earned Minkoff a one year suspension of his license, and a $10,000 fine. The staff at the Fort Harrison held McPherson for 17 days, during which she became increasingly erratic as well as dehydrated. On the 17th day, she was rushed by hotel staff to the hospital where Minkoff worked, bypassing three closer facilities, but by the time they got to him, she was dead. [Go here for the Underground Bunker’s series on her final days.]
It was during Minkoff’s suspension in 2002 that his own facility, LifeWorks Wellness Center, again made the news as it failed to report the deaths of two patients receiving treatment with a Pap-Ion Magnetic Inductor, or PAP-IMI. The magnetic pulse device was promoted to cure conditions including cancer, AIDS, persistent back pain, chronic fatigue, and allergies. The inventor of the device, Greek mathematics professor Panos Pappas, claimed at the time, “I’m not sure the world is ready to understand the PAP-IMI. It goes beyond known human knowledge.”
More recently, German filmmaker Markus Thoess, who has made several documentaries about Scientology, announced his belief that the PAP-IMI device is the answer to the mysterious burn marks on the scalp of Scientologist Biggi Reichert, who committed suicide in 2006 in Germany just a few days after she had flown back from Scientology’s Flag Land Base in Clearwater.
The PAP-IMI device has since been banned, but a form of pulsed magnetic therapy known as Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy is still offered at LifeWorks. The center claims that, “Using this device the energy in the cell can be pumped up so that it is given the energy to heal, and so healing can occur faster.”
If the testimonials on the center’s Facebook page are representative, a large portion of Minkoff’s practice is devoted to the treatment of Lyme disease, or more specifically, chronic Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which enters the body through deer tick bites. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates there are 300,000 cases per year, and the disease is only found in the Northeast coastal states, upper Midwest, and Northern California. Getting it in Florida is much rarer.
The disease sometimes causes a “bullseye” pattern around the tick bite, and responds well to antibiotic treatment. The CDC says “Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely. Most patients who are treated in later stages of the disease also respond well to antibiotics, although some may have suffered long-term damage to the nervous system or joints. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of patients experience fatigue, muscle aches, sleep disturbance, or difficulty thinking even after completing a recommended course of antibiotic treatment. These symptoms cannot be cured by longer courses of antibiotics, but they generally improve on their own, over time.”
The latter patients are the subject of much medical controversy. They no longer have the bacteria present, and some may even be attributing a variety of aches and pains to Lyme disease when they never had the disease to begin with. “[Chronic Lyme] has been used to describe symptoms in people who have no evidence of a current or past infection with B. burgdorferi. Because of the confusion in how the term CLD is employed, experts in this field do not support its use.”
Minkoff insists chronic Lyme is a real disease and he is opposed to the majority of the medical community who feel much of it is psychosomatic, or at least unrelated to an infection by the Lyme bacteria.
David Patrick, at Canada’s University of British Columbia, warns that patients given negative results by conventional tests will sometimes go to alternative clinics that falsely give them positive results. This persuades them that they have the disease and exacerbates their psychosomatic symptoms.
Many of Minkoff’s Lyme patients receive HOCATT, or Hyperthermic Ozone and Carbonic Acid Transdermal Therapy. The device is a personal sauna that uses ozone and carbonated water as a non-pharmaceutical method to attack the alleged Lyme bacteria infection. They can also receive the PEMF magnetic pulse therapy, intravenous ozone, and Otozone, an ozone treatment through the patient’s ears.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there is no therapeutic use for ozone to treat infections. “Ozone is a toxic gas with no known useful medical application in specific, adjunctive, or preventive therapy. In order for ozone to be effective as a germicide, it must be present in a concentration far greater than that which can be safely tolerated by man and animals.”
LifeWorks also offers Celergen, an anti-aging “oral cell therapy supplement” derived from unspecified “deep sea marine life.” The center also offers cell therapy in which extracts from animal glands and organs are injected into patients, and “chelation therapy” — the injection of the preserving agent EDTA into the bloodstream — to remove heavy metals from blood. Heavy metal poisoning is increasingly rare in the U.S. with the introduction of bans on lead in paint and fuel as well as improved safety standards in metalworking facilities. The theory meshes well with Scientology’s Purification Rundown, in which saunas and vitamins are used to remove non-existent stored drug residues and “stored radiation.”
— Rod Keller
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield