Saskatoon

Sask. doctor disputes charges of excessive billing, misleading claims about cancer treatment

A Saskatchewan doctor is disputing accusations from the College of Physicians and Surgeons that he falsely advertised a Regina business as being able to treat cancer and overcharged a cancer patient for unproven treatments such as a detox bath and a salt chamber. 

'My reputation has been ruined, basically.... I'm in disbelief,” says Dr. Ali Cadili

Dr. Ali Cadili says accusations from Saskatchewan's College of Physicians and Surgeons are 'radically unfair.' (Submitted by Alison Anderson)

A Saskatchewan doctor is disputing accusations from the College of Physicians and Surgeons that he falsely advertised a Regina business as being able to treat cancer and overcharged a cancer patient for unproven treatments such as a detox bath and a salt chamber.

"My reputation has been ruined, basically, and I at this point, to be honest with you, I'm in disbelief," Dr. Ali Cadili said earlier this week.

"I just cannot believe that something so radically unfair and untrue could be just made, the decision could be made to do that."

Cadili is an owner of Clear Health Inn, a Regina-based business that describes itself as providing "Canada's premier alternative cancer treatment and supplementary health treatment."

He said he is a general surgeon who graduated from the University of Alberta, practised in Saskatchewan and went to the United States for further training. He said he does not work as a doctor out of Clear Health Inn and has not practised in Regina. 

Clear Health Inn not a medical clinic: Cadili

In June 2019, the College of Physicians and Surgeons charged Cadili with three counts of unprofessional conduct relating to:

  • Alleged false and misleading advertising.
  • Allegedly offering services that had not been recognized by the medical community as having therapeutic value.
  • Unethical conduct for allegedly charging an excessive fee to a cancer patient who sought treatment in 2018. 

None of the charges have been proven. A discipline committee will decide if the evidence presented by the College of Physicians and Surgeons supports their charges, but a date for the hearing has not been set due to limitations created by COVID-19. CBC was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach Cadili at the time of the charges in 2019. He agreed to an interview this week.

Cadili said Clear Health Inn is not a medical clinic and that its website makes that clear. 

"It's emphasized on the website. It's emphasized by the staff and to everyone that this is not a replacement or an alternative to your actual medical treatment," said Cadili. 

"This is just a supplement to help you go through [and] tolerate those treatments better because the treatments sometimes, especially for cancer, can be hard on people, with chemotherapy and surgery and radiation. So this is just meant as supportive therapy to help them tolerate that better." 

Website says treatments have sound scientific basis

Clear Health Inn has a cancer care program and lists hyperthermia, intravenous Vitamin C, and sound and light therapies as among its supplementary cancer treatments.  

"Our supplementary cancer treatments are carefully researched and have a sound scientific basis for stimulating healing while minimizing harm," reads the website. 

"Unlike other clinics that offer alternative cancer treatments, Clear Health Inn's Cancer Care Program has a solid understanding and expertise in traditional medical therapy for cancer through practice and first-hand experience.

"This knowledge is invaluable in shaping and administering a successful supplementary cancer help program."

College bylaws at the time did allow patients to be recommended a treatment method with no recognized therapeutic value, but only under specific circumstances, such as being part of a clinical trial. Those bylaws were repealed in September 2018. 

"If a similar circumstance should occur in future, the college would need to address that using other provisions of the bylaws and ethical principles," the college said on Friday.

The college claims Cadili permitted advertising on behalf of Clear Health Inn that was "inaccurate and/or misleading" and says its website included statements that "misrepresented facts, were misleading and/or false, created an unjustified expectation as to likely results of the treatments, or included statements which were not factual or could not be proven to be accurate." 

Doctor says word 'treatment' causes confusion

Cadili said he thinks there is confusion over the use of the word "treatment" on the Clear Health Inn website. 

The college alleges that the clinic's website at the time listed pancreatic cancer in its list of "The Most Common Cancers We Treat." 

"I agree that if you isolate certain phrases and sentences that it could seem like we're saying that, but when you look at the website as a whole it's very clear that we're not saying these are treatments for this condition," said Cadili. 

He added that the reason the phrase "pancreatic cancer" is used on the website is so that people seeking help with that condition will find Clear Health Inn in an online search. 

"I'm pretty confident that the people who come in are pretty clear what we are and what we're not. However, you know, there are things in there on the website that somebody could say, [if they] just isolated it, could misinterpret it," he said. 

Cadili said clients at Clear Health Inn are also asked to sign a waiver saying the services will not replace the treatment recommended by a medical doctor. 

$13K treatment for pancreatic cancer

The waiver reads: "I am aware that the practice of medicine is not an exact science and as such I understand and agree that neither the Clear Health Inn nor anyone on its behalf has made or makes any representations or warranties regarding the beneficial results of the Treatments.

"Or any guarantees whatsoever, expressed or implied, regarding effects or outcomes of the Treatments, including without limitation the likelihood of success, and Clear Health Inn shall not be liable for the same."

One of the charges from the college relates to a pancreatic cancer patient who was billed $13,650 for treatments including an infrared sauna, a salt chamber and light therapy. 

The college said the fee was excessive for the services performed and that the treatments were "without recognized benefit to the treatment of pancreatic cancer." 

When Clear Health Inn did not receive a second payment of $6,825, it sent a notice to the patient threatening legal action. 

Hearing delayed due to COVID-19

Cadili said it was an automatic billing response and that Clear Health Inn did not pursue legal action against the patient. 

He said he plans to fight the claims that the college has made. 

"I don't think it's the correct decision," said Cadili. 

"It's not based on the facts. It's not based on the evidence other than the small, circumstantial, unbased, unsupported things, but they have the authority and the prerogative to just have their opinion." 

The College of Physicians and Surgeons declined to comment on the specifics of the case on Friday.

It said all hearings have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and while the college is looking at options for virtual hearings, no decisions have been made.

About the Author

Alicia Bridges is a digital and broadcast journalist at CBC Saskatoon. Email her at alicia.bridges@cbc.ca.

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