"The Lake Charles American Press", Lake Charles, LA, 5/10/1991
Publication: American Press
Publication Date: 5/19/91
Page and Section: 10 CT HD: Someone can find lame excuse to fit THE CONTEST TO select the Lame Response of the Year winners obviously draws a crowded field. But a West Coast professor provided a worthy entry.
The revelation came to light after it was discovered that therapy sessions at a California clinic to expunge cancer-causing chemicals from the bodies of a group of Shreveport firemen which cost the taxpayers more than $74,000 were useless.
The treatment, which included daily saunas and health-food meals meant to expunge the polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs, was developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Officials say the treatments undertaken in 1987 had no medical benefit.
Almost 200 people were exposed to the PCBs contained in oil that leaked out of a transformer at the LSU Medical Center. About 90 were tested for the cancer-causing substance. Of those tested, 25 underwent treatment at the HealthMed clinic in Los Angeles.
The method was promoted by Hubbard as a way to rid the body's fatty tissue of dangerous chemicals.
While the firefighters were at the clinic, Shreveport officials raised questions about its methods and alleged ties to Scientology. Armed with a report that showed PCB levels in the firefighters no higher than 5.7 parts per billion and within the range considered safe for humans, the city stopped payments to the clinic.
But not before writing checks totaling at least $74,515 to HealthMed.
Combined with hotel stays and local medical costs, treatment-related expenses from the incident stacked up to approximately $174,505 by the end of 1987. Officials estimate that figure totals about $250,000 by now.
The city ceased payment to HealthMed after contracting a physician with the National Medical Advisory Service Inc. in Bethesda, Md., to assess the treatment. In his report, the physician said the HealthMed treatment was a waste of time and money.
At that point, the medical professor and director of the environmental science laboratory at the University of Southern California, who ''monitored'' the Shreveport firefighters' stay on the coast, came up with an imposing Lame Response.
''It comes down very simply to me that if you don't do this, what can you offer them? It doesn't do any harm,'' he said.
Suddenly, we've got a new definition of medical treatment. First, you sell a bit of quackery with the promise that it will cure an ailment.
When it's exposed as useless, expensive frippery, you slide the new definition into place: The ''treatments'' are now worthwhile because they didn't harm the patients.
Wonderful. The new test for medical treatment is whether it harms you.
You simply can't find a response lamer than that.
PD:5/19/1991 page 10