Dr. Polevoy, At Your Service

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Psssst! Wanna buy a Syncrometer? What about a Zapper? The former is designed to detect worms in a person’s body. The latter blasts these parasites into oblivion through low-level electrical shocks. Worms, of course, being the leading cause of cancer and other diseases — according to Dr. Hulda Clark, anyway.

An oddball researcher currently residing in Tijuana, Mexico, Dr. Clark has documented her discoveries in a series of books with titles such as The Cure for all Cancers and The Cure for All Diseases.

Considering that the doctor was charged in 1993 for practising medicine without a licence in Indiana, the veracity of her research is extremely dubious.

In spite of her arrest — and off-the-wall claims — “Dr.” Clark remains a popular lecturer on the natural health circuit. Over the past few years, she’s spoken several times in Toronto. Her tomes are available at mainstream bookstores, including Chapters, while her machines can be purchased from domestic manufacturers and retailers.

Clark’s success is quite remarkable, and not just because her theories have little basis in reality. Technically, it’s illegal in Canada to make false claims about unapproved medical treatments and to sell fraudulent medical devices.

The ease with which individuals such as Clark flout such rules is a major source of frustration for Dr. Terry Polevoy.

A skin-care physician from Waterloo, Ontario, Dr. Polevoy spends his off-hours exposing quack medicine - that is, fake cures promoted by fake healers. The doctor runs a huge Website, and works constantly to prod indifferent authorities into action.

His site is not subtle; one page accuses the head of the Canadian Cancer Research Group (an alternate-medical centre in Ottawa where curler Sandra Schmirler sought last-ditch treatment before she died of cancer) of being a fraud. Another section blames the death of 13-year-old Tyrell Dueck on “alternative cancer quacks and an ultra-religious father.” Dueck was a Saskatchewan boy whose parents opted for alternative treatment for his cancer.

Other Webpages attack Clark’s strange theories and the people who keep inviting her to speak at health conferences.

Dr. Polevoy says his site is necessary because federal and provincial authorities have “fallen into a great, vast black hole of inaction” when it comes to cracking down on quackery.

The doctor is particularly alarmed by the lack of oversight within the “alternative medicine” field. A broad category, alternative medicine consists of services and treatments not offered by mainstream doctors and hospitals. This includes everything from Zappers and healing crystals to vitamins, herbal tonics, naturopathy, homeopathy and the like.

Such therapies are becoming increasingly popular; according to a 1999 study by the rightwing Fraser Institute, Canadians are now spending nearly $4-billion a year on alternate medical care.

Problem is, much of what goes on within the alternative field is totally unregulated, states Dr. Polevoy.

The federal government is in charge of making sure that “products, medical devices and drugs” have been “reviewed and approved” before they can be sold, says Health Canada spokesperson Roslyn Tremblay.

Health Canada routinely issues warnings about dubious medical practices and investigates firms making false claims about their products, she adds.

The provinces handle the actual regulation of the medical profession itself, through provincial Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons. While the colleges have the power to discipline doctors, their authority extends only to licensed physicians.

"We have no say over unlicensed health practitioners,” states Jill Hefley, associate director of policy and communications at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). “There is no regulatory body for people who are not licensed.”

In practise, this means almost anyone can set themselves up as a non-licensed alternative healer, with zero interference from college health regulators, says Dr. Polevoy.

Unlicensed healthcare practitioners practise quite openly in Canada. Two blocks from my house — along Danforth Avenue, one of Toronto’s busiest streets — is a storefront acupuncture centre that promises relief from a huge range of cancers.

Not only are such healers unregulated, Health Canada provisos against making false claims and selling unapproved products are widely ignored.

An online search for “Dr. Hulda Clark + Canada” turned up a company called SOTA Instruments from Revelstroke, British Columbia, that offers Zappers and a range of other “cutting-edge alternative products for bio-electric protocols.”

The August issue of Alive, a health journal found at natural-food stores across Canada, boasts a half-page ad for a herbal product called “Diaba Gone,” which is said to “support natural insulin function” in diabetics. The same magazine contains several notices from companies selling Hulda Clark’s Zappers.

The July/August 2001 edition of Vitality, Toronto’s self-proclaimed “monthly wellness journal” reveals a similar series of ads and articles. A half-page advert for a “Magnetic Energy Cup” (which looks suspiciously like a coffee mug with Chinese lettering on it) promises “relief from all digestive problems, such as constipation, ulcers, colitis, bloating, etc.”

The easy availability of such unproven — if not completely ineffectual and fake — treatments infuriates medical activists such as Dr. Polevoy.

“These scam artists should be prohibited from plying their trade,” he states. “Where’s the long arm of the law when someone dies from ill-conceived misdiagnosis?”

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