Patients lobby to defend holistic medicine

February 04, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

Doctors who practice holistic medicine shouldn't be singled out by the state for punishment, argued patients of a Laurel doctor whose license was suspended last month.

About 40 patients of Dr. Ahmad Shamim, who prescribes nutritional therapies, packed a House of Delegates committee hearing yesterday to support legislation by Del. W. Ray Huff that would protect doctors who rely on holistic practices.

The Anne Arundel Democrat introduced the bills at the request of constituents who are Dr. Shamim's patients.

"When I first heard his prescriptions, I said, 'This is crazy. I can't do all that with those weeds and seeds,' " said Mark Broyer, a Burtonsville resident who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1988. "But if it weren't for Dr. Shamim I wouldn't be here to talk about this now."

Other patients described their recoveries from breast cancer and other illnesses.

Dr. Shamim, whose license was suspended in 1984 for falsifying medical records, testified that he believes he has been singled out for punishment because he practices holistic medicine.

But the chairman of the agency that lifted Dr. Shamim's license disagreed.

"We didn't revoke his practice because of the things he was doing, but because of the things he wasn't doing," said Dr. Israel H. Weiner, chairman of the state Board of Physician Quality Assurance.

Dr. Weiner said board members were concerned that Dr. Shamim kept poor medical records and did not order proper diagnostic tests.

One of Mr. Huff's bills would prohibit the physicians' board from revoking or suspending the license of a doctor who prescribes nontraditional remedies as long as he or she employs them in conjunction with "standard medical practices" and the patient signs a consent form.

The other bill would establish a fact-finding commission to identify unconventional medical practices being used in the state, analyze their benefits, costs and risks, and make recommendations for reform to the General Assembly by July 1, 1994.

"You want to get rid of the bad doctors, not the brand of medicine they practice," said Dr. Neil Solomon, a former secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "No one has a corner on the truth in medicine."

One opponent of the legislation was Jan Emmons, who has cheered up cancer patients as Sunrise the Clown for years.

Ms. Emmons, who described a friend's struggle with cancer and the unorthodox treatment recommended by her doctor, was concerned that holistic doctors fail to seek help.

"I'm not against holistic medicine," she said. "All I'm saying is [doctors] have to realize when to get off the pedestal and refer someone [to another physician]."

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