A Florida health resort licensed as a “massage establishment” is treating a young Ontario First Nations girl with leukemia using cold laser therapy, Vitamin C injections and a strict raw food diet, among other therapies.
The mother of the 11-year-old girl, who can not be identified because of a publication ban, says the resort’s director, Brian Clement, who goes by the title “Dr.,” told her leukemia is “not difficult to treat.”
Another First Nations girl, Makayla Sault, was also treated at Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach and is now critically ill after a relapse of her leukemia.
- First Nations girl's family rejects chemo, hospital goes to court to force treatment
- Makayla Sault, earlier First Nation child who refused chemo, relapsed: doctor
The resort has declined CBC’s request for an interview with Clement, who is described as a “naturopathic doctor” on the resort’s website.
The 11-year-old girl was receiving chemotherapy at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton. Doctors gave her a 90 to 95 per cent chance of survival with chemotherapy.
But her mother says she wanted to pursue a combination of traditional indigenous medicine and alternative therapies because she believes chemotherapy is “poison.”
Court ruling coming
The names of the mother and daughter are protected by a publication ban imposed by an Ontario Superior Court judge who will rule on Friday if the girl is a “child in need of protection.”
He could rule that the Brant Children’s Aid Society should take her into custody, potentially forcing her back into chemotherapy.
The family of Makayla Sault, who is the same age, has the same type of leukemia and lives in a nearby First Nation made a similar decision to leave chemotherapy earlier this year.
Both families travelled to West Palm Beach and paid more than $18,000 each for Clement’s “Life Transformation Program” at the Hippocrates Health Institute (HHI).
Makayla relapsed after returning from HHI. She was hospitalized last week and is said to be critically ill.
The other girl has also returned home, but her mother says HHI is continuing to provide care by analyzing blood test results sent by mail.
Concerns about director’s claims and credentials
CBC News is looking into the claims and credentials of Clement.
He’s been giving lectures in and around both girls’ communities in recent months, including one event attended by Makayla’s family this past May.
“We've had more people reverse cancer than any institute in the history of health care,” he says.
“So when McGill fails or Toronto hospital fails, they come to us. Stage four (cancer), and they reverse it.”
The mother of the girl whose identity is protected says she knew as soon as her daughter was diagnosed that she wanted to seek treatment at Hippocrates, a clinic she was familiar with through a relative, but didn’t have the money to go.
After securing financial support from family, she called Clement from the hospital waiting room on the 10th day of her daughter’s chemotherapy.
“He had the tone of voice where he was so confident,” she says.
“By him saying, ‘Oh yes no problem we can help her,’ that's the day I stopped the chemo.”
An online biography for Clement reads: “A Naturopathic Doctor and a licensed Nutritionist, Dr. Clement is a graduate of the University of Science, Arts, and Technology where he earned his Ph.D. and N.M.D.”
A different biography, posted on a site run by Clement, says his post-graduate degree came from Lady Malina Memorial Medical College.
According to the Florida State Health Authority, Hippocrates Health Institute is a licensed massage establishment. It says Brian Clement is not a licensed doctor or naturopath.
Hippocrates Health Institute did not respond to questions from CBC News seeking clarification about where and when Clement attended university.
In the May video, Clement told an audience that he went back to school to earn his PhD 15 years ago, despite being at odds with conventional medical teaching.
“When I went back and got that education I had to actually lie on half the tests because I would have failed … if I applied what I knew from all the work I did decades before that,” he says.
Further inquiries about the University of Science, Arts and Technology (USAT) and the Lady Melina Memorial College raise questions about their credibility.
I could have printed him a degree on a laser printer and it would be … just as indicative of training and skills.- George Gollin, University of Illinois
“Those are diploma mills,” says George Gollin, a professor at University of Illinois who has investigated these and other medical schools which “don’t require their customers to do any meaningful academic work.”
“It’s horrible,” Gollin says. “I could have printed him a degree on a laser printer and it would be … just as indicative of training and skills. What I think is terrible is that he`s using this, as I understand it, to treat patients who are desperately sick children.”
USAT is on the Caribbean island of Montserrat and says on its website it has satellite campuses or offices in Colorado, Florida and Kentucky. In the past, it has claimed to also offer classes in London, U.K.
In a recent promotional video, USAT president Orien Tulp says that his students graduate faster and score better than those in conventional medical schools because “we coach them through the exams, we guide them through the exams in a very targeted system that they can not fail.”
'Nothing is correct’
CBC News contacted some of the organizations USAT says have given it accreditation.
“We have found that USAT is not a legally recognized degree-granting institution of higher education approved by the Ministry of Education of Montserrat,” says the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO)
Steve Slade, director of the Canadian Post M.D. Education Registry (CAPER), says “nothing is correct” about the claims linking it to USAT.
“CAPER has nothing to do with accreditation… We will send a message requesting that this incorrect information be removed,” Slade wrote in an email.
Sources in Montserrat confirm that regional accreditation authorities are also wary of USAT’s operations and have refused it admission.
USAT has “not provided sufficient evidence to indicate teaching activities were actually taking place,” wrote an official with the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine following a visit to the oceanside campus in 2012.
When contacted by CBC News, USAT owner Tulp said that all those who criticize his university are lying to the CBC. He refused to give an address for his campus, or the names and contact info of his professors. He said he has 1,000 students, and that USAT is one of only two legitimate universities in the Caribbean and one of the top 100 medical schools in the world.
As for Clement, he remembers him and he did not receive a NMD from his university. But he believes he was probably Clement’s professor in nutrition.
“I never created a fraudulent degree in my life, and I never will,” Tulp told CBC News. “Brian Clement he is not a naturopathic doctor from USAT. I can guarantee that. He shouldn’t be making false claims for one. If he is, I’ll withdraw his degree.”
Hippocrates Health Institute declined CBC’s request for an interview with Clement.
CBC asked the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) about the efficacy of alternative therapies in treating acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Below is their response:
“The important thing to note here is that we are "adjunctive care" providers. As naturopathic doctors, I can confidently say that nothing we would prescribe would replace conventional chemotherapy or other conventional treatment, nor would we ever recommend this.
Naturopathic therapies prescribed in a case of ALL would be targeted at treating adverse effects of chemotherapy (mucositis, nausea, dysgeusia). Once chemotherapy is completed, we might focus on helping the patient to recover from residual side-effects and helping to prevent recurrence.
While intravenous vitamin C may be indicated as an adjunct therapy in other cancers, and has some emerging clinical evidence to support its use, I have not seen the evidence to support its use in leukemias. Pediatric data on the use of intravenous vitamin C is limited.”
- Jill Shainhouse, ND, FABNO, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology
With files from John Nicol