Canadian reporters cover Florida health scam ignored in US

Canadian reporters cover Florida health scam ignored in US

Want to see a scamster squirm?  Watch this Canadian Broadcasting reporter ask "Dr." Brian Clement some pointed questions about the Hippocrates Health Institute. 

The video and online news report about the interview are the latest installment in the CBC's excellent coverage of Hippocrates and its quack cancer treatments. This might make you think that Hippocrates is in Canada. But wait, isn't the background in that video kind of lush for Canada, especially in the winter?  And aren't the people dressed fairly lightly for the Canadian weather? That's because the interview takes place in West Palm Beach, Florida, which sits on the Atlantic Ocean about 1500 miles south of Toronto, where the CBC is headquartered.  West Palm, and the much tonier Palm Beach, are magnets for Canadians and Americans from the north who want to escape the snow, ice and cold. Hippocrates's 60-acre facility, with its peach-colored stucco buildings, vast green lawns, swaying palms and other semi-tropical flora, is in West Palm. 

The CBC was alerted that something might be amiss when two Canadian girls suffering from cancer were treated there.  Clement had come north to speak to the girls' aboriginal tribes, telling audiences, and the girls' parents, how the girls could "heal themselves" under his care.  Hippocrates offers quackery like wheatgrass, IV injections of vitamins, dietary supplements, foot baths to remove "toxins," raw foods diets and assorted other treatments which have zero evidence of effectiveness in treating cancer.

 

The CBC did what good news media are supposed to do.  Their reporters went behind Clement's facile claims and looked at the facts.  The CBC found that Clements, who uses the title "doctor," isn't one.  His degrees are from dubious unaccredited schools. Hippocrates is licensed by Florida as a massage establishment. They interviewed staff members, several of whom were fired for criticizing Hippocrates, according to a recently filed lawsuit, also reported by the CBC. And they had the guts to send a reporter down to Florida and interview Clement, who ordered the reporter and cameraman off his property and stalked off in a huff. Typical of those who have a queasy relationship with the truth, he dodged questions and accused the CBC of being in cahoots with "the establishment." 

The CBC contacted the Florida Department of Health, which would not confirm or deny it is investigating Clement.  I happen to know, from a reliable source, that a complaint against Clement for the unlicensed practice of medicine has indeed been filed.  I also happen to know, again from a reliable source, that Hippocrates has been reported to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the agency that oversees health care facility licensing, for running a health clinic without the proper state license.

Hippocrates and Clement have also been covered in the blogosphere.  Science-Based Medicine, NeuroLogica,  Respectful Insolence (also here), True/Slant and Doubtful News all ran posts. True/Slant's post was way back in 2009. Quackwatch lists Hippocrates as a "questionable organization." One of the RI posts, in 2013 (see second link, above), was about another victim of Hippocrates, a young Irish woman with breast cancer, who scraped together thousands of dollars for the trip to Florida. (Two Irish newspapers, the Limerick Post, and the Irish Examiner published depressingly credulous stories about her.)  She later died.   

I'll add another tidbit of information here, while we are on the subject. Hippocrates is a not-for-profit tax-exempt organization, a status granted by the Internal Revenue Service. This means it pays no federal (or state) taxes on its income.  According to the latest federal tax return I could find (on Guidestar), in 2011, Hippocrates took in over $13.5 million dollars. It reported net assets of over $24 million.  Clement and his wife together were paid compensation totaling over half a million dollars. This included, in addition to salaries, over $40,000 each for "bonus and incentive compensation."  A salary survey website reports that Hippocrates "public relations coordinators" earn about $40,000 a year. 

Hippocrates has been in operation since the 1950s.  And where have Florida regulatory authorities been all this time?  How about Florida media? And what about West Palm Beach physicians, who surely must have known something was up at Hippocrates? They're nowhere to be found, as best I can tell. I searched the websites of the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Pete Times), the states most respected newspaper.  Nothing. Same result for the Miami Herald, a large newspaper just south of West Palm.

And the Palm Beach Post, the local newspaper?  I did find some fatuous puff pieces on "Dr." Brian Clement, the latest from January of this year.  This one describes Clement as 

one of the nation's foremost authorities in life transformation via a combination of meatless, animal-free nutrition, exercise, mind-body therapies and other holistic, all-natural protocols.

The article says Clement is "a formally trained biochemist" with an "inimitable, engaging style." Apparently so engaging that, according to Clement himself, organizers of events like "Fresh Fest," where he was about to speak, "have to pull me off the stage." The article continues in this infomercial-like vein with a description of some of the many "therapies" offered at Hippocrates, including "but not limited to" detoxification, colonics, infrared sauna, ozone pools and bio-energy treatments. (So much pseudomedicine to choose from!) According to Clement's grammatically and factually questionable claim,

We've had cancer patients who were deemed terminally ill had their diseases reversed.  

This reporter can't be bothered with the most simple of fact checks.  The article claims Clement is "in his 60s" although looking "a decade or two younger." (Not to me, but that's just my opinion.) Yet, in 2009, the Post reported Clement as being 53 years old. One or the other is ages is correct, but not both.  Aren't the Post's reporters taught how to search their own paper's archives?

In the 2009 article, a Post reporter described Clement (this time, he's a naturopath), fresh from a "detoxifying sauna bath," as "a luminary of the raw foods movement" who draws visitors to Hippocrates such as Coretta Scott King, Roberta Flack, Kenny Loggins and, "perhaps most famously, model and TV personality Heather Millls." (I wonder in what sort of warped celebrity pantheon Ms. Mills, Paul McCartney's ex, is more famous than Mrs. King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr.) Here we learn a bit more about the "therapies" offered.  They include nonsense like live blood cell analysis, crystal therapy and electromagnetic therapy. 

Apparently the Hippocrates public relations coordinator is earning every penny of that salary.  And the Post reporters are hanging on every word.

Points of Interest 12/16/2014
Learned Helplessness

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