Federal agents raid 'natural healing' office

The practitioner claims the title of doctor on his Web site along with a medical degree under a charter from the governments of Liberia and Ghana.

Saturday, January 8, 2005

  • Original post - you will have to register to see it BY FELICE J. FREYER Providence Journal Medical Writer PROVIDENCE -- Federal agents yesterday raided the office of John E. Curran, a practitioner of "natural healing" who does not have a medical license, after the state medical board received a complaint that Curran was "posing as a doctor." Jason Simonian, a special agent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's office of criminal investigations, who was among those conducting the raid, said that the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Postal Service were also involved in the investigation. But Simonian declined to answer questions about what the agents were looking for. Thomas Connell, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente, said: "I am not in a position to explain why they were there. There is no documentation that is on the public record. There were agents of the Food and Drug Administration and the Internal Revenue Service participating in a law-enforcement initiative." Yesterday, about a dozen agents were searching the office, on the third floor of One Richmond Square, and loading boxes full of bottles and canisters, along with some equipment, into a van. One batch of canisters contained "chocolate almond protein supplement" and another was labeled "BeneFin", with Curran's name printed on the label. Curran's lawyer, Artin H. Coloian, said, "A lot of this stuff is vitamin C. . . . regular stuff, ginger, Juicy-Fruit C, the same stuff you see at Whole Foods. I don't know what the big deal is. . . . "I think this is a disappointing attempt by the government to restrict what people do for their own health." Coloian said Curran had not been charged and that his lawyers had advised him not to comment. Dr. Robert S. Crausman, chief administrative officer of the state Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, said that he contacted federal authorities after the medical board "received complaints from patients that this person was holding himself out to be a physician." He declined to comment further on Curran, but he urged Curran's patients to seek medical evaluation by an appropriately credentialed professional. In advertisements, Curran describes himself as a "naturopathic" doctor, but none of the degrees he lists are from schools accredited by the American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Nor is he a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the main professional group for naturopaths. Coloian said that Curran is a member of many professional associations. Naturopaths are practitioners who offer "natural" and "nontoxic" therapies and seek to marshal the body's ability to heal itself. They are permitted to practice in Rhode Island, but this state does not license them. Crausman said that, in general, people should not call themselves "doctor" in a clinical setting unless they are a licensed medical professional, such as a medical doctor, an acupuncturist, or a chiropractor. Practicing medicine without a license can be a felony, he said. Coloian, Curran's lawyer, said that practicing medicine without a license was not among the allegations against Curran. He also said that Curran displays on his office wall a disclaimer saying that he is not a medical doctor, and that patients also sign a form with the same information. But on his Web site, www.drcurran.com, Curran repeatedly refers to himself as "Dr. Curran" and "the doctor." He offers therapies that he says will increase energy, strengthen immune function, relieve chronic pain and heal catastrophic disease. Curran's Web site says that he has a doctor of medicine degree from the St. Luke School of Medicine, which is not an accredited American medical school. The St. Luke Web site says its degrees are awarded "under the academic Charter from the governments of Liberia & Ghana, West Africa." Curran also lists degrees in naturopathy and alternative medicine from the Southern Graduate Institute, which is a division of the same St. Luke University. Little information could be found on the two other schools from which he says he holds doctorate degrees in naturopathy. A person answering the phone at one of them, the American Institute of Natural Healing, said that the school offers massage classes and doesn't give out degrees. On his Web site, Curran says he sells nutritional supplements and conducts laboratory tests, at his office, for an array of conditions, including pregnancy, substance abuse, HIV, kidney disease and cancer of the colon or prostate. His four-hour "complete body assessment" costs $950. The therapies offered include "SpectraColor Spa System," which "combines full-spectrum, alpha/theta light, dry heat sauna, back and thigh heat and vibratory massage, aromatheraphy and a stereo sound system for music therapy"; a heat chamber using oxygen and "transdermal ozone for the intention of stimulating the immune system into healing the body"; "Rife Light Beam Therapy" that targets the "vibrations" in cells; "Mineral Infrared Frequency Therapy"; a "light-beam generator" that is supposed to restore proper lymph function; and "Ion Cleanse Electronic Detoxification," which is a "detoxifying" footbath. Asked about these therapies, Coloian said, "They're fancy words for what I think is a pretty simple and old science. I do know that M.D.s have referred to him." In an interview posted on his Web site, Curran describes the case of a 47-year-old man diagnosed with head and neck cancer who chose Curran's "alternative medicine" instead of chemotherapy and radiation. In three months, according to Curran, he was found to be cancer-free. He doesn't describe the therapy. Curran's Web site also says he is "certified" by the Harvard, Brown and Duke medical schools. A Brown spokeswoman said, "Brown Medical School doesn't certify anybody in anything." In a full-page advertisement in the current Rhode Island Monthly, Curran describes himself as a "board-certified and licensed general practitioner of naturopathic medicine" who specializes in "the treatment of individuals with chronic, terminal and recurrent illnesses." Coloian said that Curran's office is currently closed, but "he's under no order to stay closed. . . . It may not be practical for it to be open."
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