Regulatory Action against Michael W. Whitney

Stephen Barrett, M.D.


In 2018, as noted below, the Washington Board of Naturopathy charged Michael Whitney with falling below the standard of care by administering approximately 55 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to a child who had been diagnosed with autism. The case was settled with an informal stipulation under which Whitney, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to (a) permanently refrain from treating autistic pediatric patients, (b) pay $1,500 for costs, and (c) permit auditing of patient charts during during the next two years. Whitney is licensed as both a chiropractor and a naturopath. He practices at the Spokane Integrative Medical Center in Spokane, Washington. His clinic Web site Web site describesd him as a chiropractor, a naturopath, and a board certified naturopathic oncologist. In 2016, the site stated stated: "We are a one-stop wellness center, striving to provide you with the specific care and treatment options needed to meet your unique health objectives. No other chiropractor in Spokane offers our range of services." Regarding autism, the site claimed: "Hyperbaric medicine has been shown effective for treatment of children on the spectrum. Increased pressures in the chamber improve brain circulation, increased mitochondrial function, and improved white matter function. It is well tolerated by most children and cost effective."


STATE OF WASHINGTON
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
BOARD OF NATUROPATHY

In the Matter of

MICHAEL W. WHITNEY
Credential No. NATU.NT.00000944

Respondent


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No. M2016-731

STATEMENT OF ALLEGATIONS
AND SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE

The executive director of the Board of Naturopathy (Board), on designation by the Board, makes the allegations below, which are supported by evidence contained in case no. 2015-11292. The patient referred to in this Statement of Allegations and Summary of Evidence is identified in the attached Confidential Schedule.

1. ALLEGED FACTS

1.1 On November 9, 1999, the State of Washington issued Respondent a credential to practice as a naturopathic physician. Respondent's credential is currently active.

1.2 Respondent began treating Patient A, a minor, as early as 2014. Respondent's care of Patient A fell below the established care for a Naturopath Physician practicing in Washington State.

1.3 From January 2015 through at least October 2015, Respondent treated Patient A for Patient A's autism condition. Patient A was diagnosed or received a confirming diagnosis by' different providers as autistic at some· point in early childhood between approximately age three (3) and age five (5) years old between 2007-2009. Patient A had also been diagnosed several additional concurrent diagnoses such as speech delay, developmental delay, disruptive behavior disorder. Respondent failed to attempt to establish meaningful and collaborative communication concerning Patient A's care with Patient A's pediatrician and other contemporary providers.

1.4 From approximately June 2015 through August 2015, Respondent provided hyperbaric oxygen therapy to Patient A to treat Patient A's autism. Respondent failed to observe, monitor, and document Patient A's autism and related diagnoses· for any improvement, decline, or other changes throughout the hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment period. Respondent's treatment and chart notes for approximately fifty-five (55) visits over this period are nearly identical. Respondent failed to observe and document the effects of the hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment despite well publicized concerns of the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat autism released by the Food and Drug Administration in 2013.

1.5 The uses of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat various ailments of patients is not necessarily below the standard of care. But the failure to monitor, observe, and document a patient's improvement or lack thereof when applying a treatment modality falls below the standard of care for naturopathic physicians. Application of a treatment modality without monitoring, observing, and documenting harm and results in an unreasonable risk that the patient may be harmed by continuing an inefficacious treatment that allows the condition to worsen or not improve while the patient or guardians forestall seeking other more effective treatment modalities. The use of hyperbaric oxygen presents its own risks of harm to patients that are unreasonable when the patient's reaction to the treatment is not monitored, observed, or documented, or otherwise demonstrated to be. medically justified. The more unorthodox the treatment or its application to a particular patient, the more important it is to observe, monitor, and document its effects is to meeting the naturopathic standard of care in Washington State.

2. SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE

2..1 Complaint, received by Department of Health (DOH) on November 9, 2015, with attachments.

2.2 Patient records, maintained by Timothy E. Crum, MD

2.3 Patient records, maintained by Rockwood Clinic, Spokane, WA.

2.4 DOH Letter of Cooperation to Respondent dated February 24, 2016.

2.5 Respondent's written response to DOH Letter of Cooperation dated March 28, 2016, with attachments.

2.6 Patient records, maintained by Respondent.

3. ALLEGED VIOLATIONS

3.1 The facts alleged in Section 1, if proven, would constitute unprofessional conduct in violation of RCW 18.130.180(4) which provides in part:

RCW 18.130.180 Unprofessional conduct. The following conduct, acts, or conditions constitute unprofessional conduct for any license holder under the jurisdiction of this chapter:

. . .

(4) Incompetence, negligence, or malpractice which results in injury to a patient or which creates an unreasonable risk that a patient may be harmed. The use of a nontraditional treatment by itself shall not constitute unprofessional conduct, provided that it does not result in injury to a patient or create an unreasonable risk that a patient may be harmed;

4. NOTICE TO RESPONDENT

4.1 The Board has determined that this case may be appropriate for resolution through a Stipulation to Informal Disposition (Stipulation) pursuant to RCW 18.130.172(2). A proposed Stipulation is attached, which contains the disposition the Board believes is necessary to address the conduct alleged in this Statement of Allegations and Summary of Evidence.

4.2 If Respondent agrees that the disposition imposed by the Stipulation is appropriate, Respondent should sign and date the Stipulation and return it within twenty-eight (28) days to the Department of Health Office of Legal Services at PO Box 47873, Olympia, WA 98504-7873.

4.3 If Respondent does not agree that the terms and conditions contained in the Stipulation are appropriate, Respondent should contact Janet Staiger, Department of Health Staff Attorney, PO Box 47873, Olympia, WA 98504-7873, (360) 236-4743 within twenty-eight (28) days.

4.4 If Respondent does not respond within twenty-eight (28) days, the Board will assume Respondent has declined to resolve these allegations with an informal Stipulation. and may proceed to formal disciplinary action against Respondent by filing a Statement of Charqes pursuant to RCW 18.130".172(3).

4.5 If the parties cannot resolve the allegations with an informal Stipulation, the Board may proceed with a formal Statement of Charges.

DATED: 11 October 2018.

STATE OF WASHINGTON
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
BOARD OF NATUROPATHY

__________________________
BLAKE MARESH
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

__________________________
JA NET STAIGER, WSBA #16573
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH STAFF ATIORNEY

This article was revised on February 25, 2019.

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