Holistic doctor fights suspension patients back him Medical panel to decide Wednesday

January 11, 1993|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

Time is running out for Dr. Ahmad Shamim.

On Wednesday, the holistic doctor from Laurel must convince the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurance that he has changed his approach to his patients or lose his license to practice medicine for 2 1/2 years.

The board voted in December to revoke Dr. Shamim's license, accusing him of practicing incompetent medicine. But it gave him three weeks to prove that he has changed his ways.

Dr. Shamim, whose offices are in the 600 block of Fort Meade Road, says he is being "persecuted" by the "mainstream" medical establishment because of his holistic approach. And he refuses to give up.

"I owe it to my patients and to my family to fight this," the doctor said in an interview at his office last week. "We'll make a good effort to convince them we will comply."

Dr. Israel H. Weiner, board chairman, dismissed Dr. Shamim's claims of persecution as "ludicrous," adding that the board has not disciplined another of the state's estimated 10 holistic physicians in its four-year history. The board typically disciplines about 100 of the state's 20,000 physicians in a year, Dr. Weiner said.

The board does not oppose holistic techniques, he explained, but urges doctors who practice them to suggest more conventional therapies when their methods do not appear to be working.

"His own records indicate patients were not improving, yet he continued to treat them with his methods," Dr. Weiner said.

A 96-page order released Dec. 14 details incidents from 33 cases between 1984 and 1988 that the board says indicate the doctor mishandled treatment.

It found, for example, that Dr. Shamim, 61, prescribed vitamin injections for patients without evidence of vitamin deficiency and ordered treatments without conducting tests to diagnose illnesses. In some cases, when vitamin and herbal treatments didn't work, he failed to suggest alternative treatments or recommend specialists, the board said.

He once waited three weeks before ordering X-rays of a patient suspected of having a broken thumb, according to the order.

The board also said Dr. Shamim failed repeatedly to keep adequate patient records, failed to order necessary diagnostic tests and did not inform patients that his treatments were unconventional.

But Dr. Shamim said the charges are "trumped up" distortions and a "desperate attempt" by the board to discredit a doctor who uses nutritional therapies that most mainstream doctors know little about.

"When you're not up on something, you're down on it," he said. "Anything different than standard treatment and therapy is considered far-off and quackery. They say, 'It's inappropriate,' 'It's unproven,' 'It's unscientific.' "

He said he frequently orders diagnostic tests and refers patients to specialists when necessary.

"It's possible there have been a few misses, that some things did not get documented," he conceded. But he dismissed the majority of the charges as "untruths."

And many of his 600-plus patients agree.

Two weeks ago, as word of the board's action spread, patients launched a letter-writing campaign to change the board's opinion. In letters written to the board, with copies sent to legislators and newspapers, dozens of patients threatened legal action if the board does not stop "the ongoing harassment" of Dr. Shamim.

"If the board does ANYTHING to prevent Dr. Shamim from practicing medicine and providing me with the medical advice and treatments I desire, thereby causing deterioration of my health, I will bring legal action against everyone on the board," wrote Betty L. Williams of Pasadena.

The Baltimore Sun has received more than 50 letters and 40 phone calls, all in support of Dr. Shamim.

Dr. Weiner acknowledged that the board had received the letters and that they had been supportive.

Laurel resident Marie Lowe, a patient of Dr. Shamim's for 13 years, wrote that she could not understand why the board would discipline him.

"If a patient complained or there was a malpractice suit and they moved in, I could understand it. But there's been none," she said.

Ms. Lowe, who went to Dr. Shamim with a swollen thumb, is one of the patients the board claims received inadequate treatment because the doctor waited three weeks to order an X-ray.

Yet she remains satisfied. Dr. Shamim's treatment worked, she said, and the X-ray was to assure that no "traumatic arthritis" had set in.

"I never thought it was broken," she said. "I mean, it wasn't that painful. I could bend it." Dr. Weiner conceded that not all the cases include strong evidence against Dr. Shamim. But some cases showed bad judgment, he added.

In some cases, Dr. Shamim used nutritional therapy on patients with high blood pressure and diabetes for months without success, Dr. Weiner said. Dr. Shamim's troubles are only the latest in a series of clashes with state regulators. In 1984, his license was suspended for three years when a medical review board ruled that he had falsified medical reports. His license was reinstated five months later after he completed re-education programs, and he was then placed on probation. A review of his cases in 1990 led to the current action.

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