Acupuncturist stripped of license and accused of practicing anyway has bond set at $250,000

September 19, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Melody Simmons and Suzanne Loudermilk contributed to this article.

A 71-year-old cancer patient's plea for treatment turned into an abusive, 14-hour session at the hands of a Towson acupuncturist, authorities said yesterday, recounting allegations of burning, force-feeding and psychological torment.

That treatment led to suspension this summer of Neil Garland's license to practice. Now Garland, 42, is the first acupuncturist in Maryland to be charged with practicing without a license. Yesterday, a judge set bail at $250,000.

"It is unusual to have bail set at $250,000 for a misdemeanor, but in this case it's warranted," said Assistant Attorney General Sidney Rocke after the bail hearing in a Baltimore County courtroom. "The fact that these are misdemeanor charges does not underplay the danger this man poses to the public."

Garland of the 400 block of Timonium Road was arrested Tuesday and charged with practicing acupuncture without a valid state license and continuing to represent himself as an acupuncturist after the Maryland State Acupuncture Board suspended his license in July.

The suspension resulted from charges that Garland physically and psychologically tormented the cancer patient -- whom officials declined to identify. Authorities charged that Garland pressured the man into abandoning other treatment and forced him to participate in a session in which he was allegedly restrained, burned with herbs and made to sit in his own waste.

According to a 20-page order for summary suspension of the license, the patient was rushed to St. Joseph Medical Center after he stopped chemotherapy and radiation treatments on Garland's advice. The patient resumed treatment from his medical doctor and was eventually released from Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium, where he was recuperating, the documents said.

Robert M. Duggan, chairman of the acupuncture board, said Garland is the first acupuncturist in the state to have his license suspended. Duggan said he was unaware of any other serious complaints against an acupuncturist in the 23 years the practice has been legal in Maryland.

"The board took action immediately to investigate the complaint and revoke his license," said Duggan of the Traditional Acupuncture Institute in Columbia. "The actions that are alleged have nothing to do with acupuncture treatment. The actions are not in keeping with any form of healing practice."

At his bail review, Garland told Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr. he had stopped performing acupuncture after the suspension and instead was treating patients with acupressure and other methods.

"I highly respect the laws and the way they are worded and I have not been inserting needles," said Garland. "I don't feel like I'm a risk to the public."

But officials said Garland continued to practice at the Ginseng Shop on Allegheny Avenue -- also known as the Acupuncture and Herbs Pain and Stress Clinic -- and Sept. 3 treated Robert Merolla, 21, a senior at Towson State University.

According to the statement of charges, Merolla went to Garland complaining of ringing in his ears and was "gouged" with a needle in his back and pricked on his face until it bled.

Merolla said Garland also stuck a hollow tube into his ears, causing him pain. Merolla sought treatment at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and was advised to contact authorities about the treatment, the document said.

Reached yesterday at his home in New Hyde Park, N.Y., Merolla said prosecutors had asked him not to discuss the incident.

Helen Foster, 73, of Pikesville said at the hearing that she has been a patient of Garland's for almost a year and has been helped by his treatments. Before going to Garland, Foster said, she suffered from a variety of illnesses and was unable to walk without assistance.

"He told me that his license was suspended and he discontinued treating me with needles after that and started using acupressure instead," Foster said. "Without his treatments, I will be unable to function."

But Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said later that Garland willfully ignored the suspension.

"He simply didn't learn his lesson the first time so he just had to learn his lesson the hard way," Curran said. "Because of the nature of the complaint, and then the Towson State student's complaint, I thought we should go ahead and arrest him."

Pub Date: 9/19/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.