Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Saturday, June 11, 2005

"Doctor" faces charges of fraud (John E. Curran)

The Pendulum

"Doctor" faces charges of fraud

Facing serious state and federal allegations of swindling thousands of dollars out of clients seeking alternative health therapies, false representation of his qualifications as a physician and falsely diagnosing otherwise healthy people with life-threatening diseases, worms and parasites, John E. Curran proclaimed it "witchcraft."

"That's exactly what it is," Curran, a naturopathic practitioner, said Tuesday from his Northeastern Institute for Advance Natural Healing office at the lower level of 110 Main Street.

Despite being served with a Summary Suspension from the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) at his Main Street office earlier in the day, Curran said he knew nothing of the action, and indicated he had a client waiting in his office down the hall.

"Something was dropped off here this morning, and I had it sent to my attorney's office," said Curran. "They'll do anything to shut naturopathy down.
"I did not in any way, shape or form diagnose people at any time."

Naturopathic practitioners are not licensed medical physicians. Their practice is state regulated however.

Naturopathy is defined by the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, as a "system of practice that bases treatment...on natural laws governing human body...and mechanical methods, such as air, water, light, heat, earth, phytotherapy, food and herb therapy...Excludes major surgery, and use of drugs, except those...compatible to body processes for maintenance of life."

David R. Gifford, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, said Curran is misrepresenting himself and "performing activities of someone who should be licensed."

According to Gifford it is alleged that Curran supplied a patient with a compromised liver function an alcohol-based potion, in effect endangering the individual's life.

"I remember that guy, he came in off the street," Curran said when asked to address the allegation. "He wanted a homeopathic remedy and I gave it to him. He wasn't a patient. He did not pay for my service. I didn't charge him because I felt bad for him, because he was, you know, poor."

While Curran seemed incredulous to the recent allegations, he declined to comment on an investigation and raid at his Providence practice this year.

According to documents filed in January 6 in U. S. District Court that were only recently unsealed, Curran's Providence practice was investigated by the Food and Drug Administration, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and a bank account seized.

The document sites Curran was investigated for mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and unlawful practice out of his Providence office.

In addition to the financial fraud, the record states "Although he is not qualified to diagnose diseases, Curran advises his patients, among other things, that: (1) they have parasites in their blood stream; (2) that they have a severely reduced number of blood cells; (3) that they have certain deficient 'body functions;' (4) that they have worms in their blood; (5) that they have holes in their blood; and (6) that they have a life threatening disease."

Following a series of unusual tests, the document states Curran prescribed expensive therapies by names like "E-Water" which was determined to be distilled water and "super green drink" which allegedly had "no therapeutic value."

Curran was defiant however, when confronted with allegations of misrepresentation or shystering.

"I've been practicing for ten years, and I've had five complaints. I've never stated I practice medicine here. This is totally natural; no drug therapies whatsoever."

It is also alleged that Curran drew patient's blood and conducted diagnostic tests, which can only be conducted by a licensed individual.

"I never ran a blood test. I conducted a demonstration for a patient. They were never charged." Holding up his finger, Curran said "I took a drop of blood, put it on a microscope, and let them look up the picture (of their blood) in a book that's been used for 70 years. It was a free test. No one was ever charged. And I haven't done that test in six months. Curran said a patient's initial consultation is free, so "they know everything about naturopathy before making a decision about their health care. And the government is a hundred percent slanted against this."

Sporting a tie tack with a Caduceus surrounded by the wording "Certified by Brown University School of Medicine," Curran said he had, despite reports to the contrary, received certification by Brown University, as well as Harvard.

"Someone called the school and someone who answered there said they don't certify on anything," he said before leaving the lobby and returning with a framed, matted document from Brown Medical School that asserted Curran "has successfully competed HEPP News: Self Assessment Test" in May 2002, and signed by a school official named Janice Miller.

According to the department of Continuing Medical Education at Brown University, The HEPP News is a newsletter covering a different topic each issue, and is not a certification program for a position or completion of a specialty. A self-exam is provided at the end of the newsletter for medical professionals to take and receive one credit towards the continuing education program to required uphold their certification.

According to Brown University, the document Curran presented as evidence of certification in the study of HIV and AIDS was an acknowledgement that received the newsletter and took the self-exam.

Curran claims that there are many "online, correspondent and overseas" courses one can take when studying naturopathy. Curran said he studied "for years" in Massachusetts under a naturopath he refused to name, though Rhode Island is the only state he has practice his craft.

When asked about the legitimacy of the naturopathic philosophy itself, Gifford said "I think there's a lot of people who seek the care, but this individual clearly used that to take advantage of people.

"I think he's shown evidence of trying to skirt the law and it's resulted in hurting someone."

Attorney John H. Ruginski, Curran's attorney, declined to comment on the allegations saying "I've been very busy (with other clients)" and had not had the opportunity to review the summons. "It wouldn't be fair to my client for me to comment at this time."

Board of Health Attorney Bruce McIntyre, said he found Curran's behavior "remarkable."

"This guy is brazen in ways I couldn't begin to describe. Those in legitimate alternative practices are astonished at his audacity and what he is doing in the office is something that's not done by bonafide naturopathic practitioners," McIntyre said. "He is not a naturopath.

"When you tell people they're going to die because they have parasites in their blood, that they're lucky they got there in time, that's a demonstration to swindle them out of their money."

Wide-eyed and professing innocence however, Curran obviously disagrees with the state.

"I don't get it, first they give you the right to practice, then they come down on you." said Curran. "I'm not the first, and I'm not the last. This is more of a type of harassment. I've been in practice ten years. Don't you think they would have closed me down a long time ago? They love their power. They eat it like candy. (Naturopathy) is about food. Food isn't going to kill you."


More about Curran: