Chronic Lyme disease almost certainly does not exist, but a growing number of doctors are diagnosing and treating it with long-term antibiotics and other remedies. They are known as LLMDs (“Lyme Literate” medical doctors). This subject has been covered repeatedly on Science-Based Medicine, here, here, here, here, and elsewhere.
I have a correspondent who joined a Yahoo group for Lyme disease (Northern VA Lyme). She shared with me a message to that group that listed the LLMDs in their area. On that list was Patricia Slusher, ND, CN (naturopath, certified nutritionist). Other messages confirmed that Slusher is treating patients for “chronic Lyme disease.” One message specifically described the treatments prescribed by Patricia Slusher:
For the first 3 weeks my Lyme protocol consist of taking 3 supplements from Percision [sic] Herbs, LLC; LYX, Spirex and Puricell and spending 30 minutes 2X a week getting a Quad Zapper treatment. After the 3 weeks, my test for Lyme was negative. But bartonella was still positive. She has changed my supplements to taking Drainage-tone and Amoeba-chord by energetix and 15 minutes 1x a week of the Quad Zapper to fight the bartonella. I have doing [sic] this protocol for approx. 3 weeks. Along with this protocol I am on several other homeopathic supplements to address some of my symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, nerve pain (feels like someone is stabbing me with an ice pick or bugs crawling on me), numbness, inflammation, low vitamin D, etc. Also, supplements to raise the functioning level of my adrenals and kidneys. [Note: the Quad Zapper is a version of one of the infamous Hulda Clark’s phony devices.]
This sounded like quackery above and beyond what most LLMDs and even most naturopaths would offer, so I did some research. I learned some things.
All NDs Are Not Created Equal: Trinity College of Natural Health
Slusher’s website says she obtained her doctoral degree (ND) in Traditional Naturopathy from the Trinity College of Natural Health. There are only 7 schools of naturopathy in the US, and Trinity is not one of them. The Trinity website explains:
Trinity School is accredited and recognized by the American Naturopathic Medical Certification and Accreditation Board, Inc. in Las Vegas, Nevada (www.anmab.org). We have not, nor do we plan, to seek accreditation through the U.S. Department of Education.
Translation: the school is not accredited by the official organization, the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Colleges. That organization has accredited only 7 naturopathic schools, all of which offer 4-year graduate-level programs and require undergraduate science prerequisites for admission.
Trinity goes on to warn students that, although graduates can put ND after their names, there is a problem in a few states which license naturopaths. In those states, Trinity graduates cannot practice or identify themselves as naturopaths unless they are licensed, and they they cannot be licensed on the basis of a degree from Trinity, since licenses are only granted to graduates of accredited 4-year programs. They do not mention that this creates a dilemma: graduates must choose between being unlicenseable in states with ND licensing, or going anywhere else and risking prosecution for practicing medicine without a license.
The program description reads:
Total health is achieved by understanding the intricate relationships of the body (physical), mind (emotional), and spirit (spiritual). It is no accident that the Creator has numerous methods of analyzing our complex body. The Scripture says ‘at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.’ (Deuteronomy 19:15). This program encompasses the awareness of a multitude of modalities to observe circumstances in the body as well as a detailed study of nutrition, herbs and other available natural resources. The student learns how to determine the best of all natural options according to the knowledge gained from numerous information-gathering techniques.
The only admission requirement for Trinity’s ND program is a high school diploma or GED. The curriculum consists of 15 installments of a correspondence course. Total cost $3195. Estimated hours to complete: 2164. Typical time to completion: 2 years. The list of classes reads like an index to QuackWatch.org: Bach flower remedies, reflexology, iridology, homeopathy, applied kinesiology, acupressure techniques, aromatherapy, dry blood analysis, assessing health by acid/alkaline balancing, and so on. Even a course with the promising title “Chemistry of Man” is a farce based on the life work of two doctors who showed how the chemical elements of food affect the shaping of human temperament. “Anatomy and Physiology — Advanced” (there is no introductory or intermediate course) pretends to cover basic chemistry, cell biology, metabolism and anatomy in 80 hours with one textbook, The Johns Hopkins Atlas of the [sic] Human Functional Anatomy. That is not a textbook, but a popularization for the general reader — a sort of Cliff Notes — and Trinity doesn’t even get the title right. And it is obviously not about basic chemistry or cell biology.
The school philosophy is highly religious, with an emphasis on Biblical knowledge rather than science. If students have questions, there are no instructors to answer them. There are only “student services representatives.” There is a test for every installment. Tests are open-book, and students are required to get a score of 85% to pass. If their score is lower, they are asked to resubmit answers to only the questions they missed. The student services representatives who grade the tests provide assistance at their own discretion. There is no final exam. A 45-page dissertation is required but can be waived. No internships are available.
What Slusher Offers in Her Wellness Pathways Clinic
The first visit lasts 2-3 hours and includes a health history, “Quantum Reflex Analysis” (applied kinesiology), and an examination of the patient’s tongue, nails, and face. Listed under “Therapies and Additional Services” are:
- the Zyto Biocommunication Health Evaluation (a bogus electrodermal diagnostic process using a biofeedback machine hooked up to a computer).
- Avalon Photonic Light Therapy (quantum infrared photo energy that allegedly releases nitric oxide to accomplish all kinds of wonderful things like detoxifying, promoting cell regeneration, and helping with wrinkles and sagging skin).
- Distance Consultation and Testing. No need to come into the office. Send a glossy photo or a handwriting sample in a #2 lead pencil.
- Saliva Hormone Testing (notoriously unreliable).
- “Detoxification” treatments with ionic foot baths, body packs, saunas, and purification programs.
- Chromatherapy Light Goggles (because “God designed people to be exposed to full spectrum sunlight several hours a day”) with color pairings for various organ systems.
- Electronic acupressure
- Chi modulator
- Meridian therapy
The Quad Zapper is not on the list, but her patient said it was part of the treatment. Slusher sells nutritional supplements and homeopathic remedies to her patients at a typical cost of $100-300 on the first visit.
Although Slusher claims that some of these therapies improve specific diseases like arthritis and cancer, the website carries the disclaimer that she does not diagnose or treat diseases. Her slogan is “Supporting your body holistically to restore balance and promote healing.” Naturopaths are not licensed in Virginia. If Slusher is practicing naturopathy there, she could be prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license. In the video on her website, she describes herself as an energy medicine doctor (and goes into elaborate pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo involving quantum theory); she claims that applied kinesiology is more accurate than any other diagnostic tests; and she implies that most patients come to her with a problem that she is able to resolve over a 3-4 month period with “remedies.”
She is walking a fine line. It could be argued that she is practicing medicine without a license, but she could try to weasel out of it by asserting that she is only promoting wellness to allow the body to heal itself.
I find all of this deeply disturbing. It disturbs me that patients have no way of telling whether the letters ND mean the practitioner has graduated from a 4-year school with at least some level of training in basic science and medical subjects or has simply completed a correspondence course based on arrant nonsense. It disturbs me that a school is offering such a curriculum. It disturbs me that anyone ever believed in Hulda Clark’s zappers, but it’s particularly disturbing that people still believe it now, years after her death from a cancer she could not cure with her methods. It disturbs me that illegal devices like Zyto have not been eliminated by regulators who have the power to do so. It disturbs me that Slusher is essentially practicing medicine without a license (despite her disclaimers, it seems obvious that patients perceive her as a doctor treating them for a disease). It disturbs me that patients are being diagnosed with a nonexistent disease (chronic Lyme) and are being steered to her for treatment with useless remedies instead of getting help for their real problems.