Death by Natural Causes

AD for the AMA?

I was really offended by Nina Shapiro's cover article "Death by Natural Causes" [June 8]. Shapiro has turned an incident which may have been a case of one doctor not performing up to standard into an all-out assault on naturopathic medicine. Why doesn't she try looking into the statistics on iatrogenic disease (disease and death caused by doctors), one of the leading causes of death in this country? When an M.D. makes a mistake or is negligent, the media don't start running cover-page articles about how the entire medical establishment is incompetent. What I really found offensive about the article was the fact that there were several huge advertisement-style quotes from M.D.s criticizing naturopathic medicine. The piece looked like an American Medical Association–purchased advertising campaign. It was propaganda.

DK Burnaby


More Research Needed

As a licensed massage therapist, I hold a contrarian position on alternative medicine ["Death by Natural Causes," June 8]. That is, I have come to the conclusion that AM is oversold, overhyped, and generally ineffective. Most alternative practices have subtle, if any, effects and yet are presented as vital to health. My naturopath prescribed shark cartilage for my dying mother; subsequent studies have proven beyond any doubt that shark cartilage is completely worthless. AM practitioners routinely present their methods as powerful remedies and yet ignore the lessons of medical history and science. If the AM movement would spend more time on basic research and less time on promotion, it wouldn't have such a credibility problem.

Frank Forencich


Natural Bias

Upon seeing the cover of your recent issue, I wondered what unfortunate current event had transpired that prompted your paper to use as the lead article a story of the dispute surrounding the death of a teen who was a patient of naturopathic medicine ["Death by Natural Causes," June 8]. After reading the article, I am left still wondering.

First, the occurrence, mournful as it is, took place four years ago, and the case was settled two years ago. Why it is of such importance only today I cannot determine. Furthermore, it is clear from the very title and subtitle of the story that the author's judgment was firmly in place. Nina Shapiro took the position that Dr. Lucinda Messer was in the wrong. This amounts to nothing more than an unsubstantiated assumption, and as another provider of "complementary medicine" (in no way acquainted with Messer or this case), I am incensed by the reporting that neglected some very basic issues.

Regardless of whether or not Messer's office referred the Wilsons to the hospital, why didn't the family realize the naturopathic treatment was not working and take their daughter to the emergency room? Where is the responsibility here? And why didn't anyone think to ask whether or not the Wilsons have insurance (which is a common deterrent from seeking allopathic medical care and could have contributed to the decision to forgo a visit to the hospital)?

Are we becoming a society that relies so heavily on the wonders of modern medicine that we are forgetting our own role in our health care and the health care of our family? I fear for the future of our state's health care system that so progressively covers complementary treatments, which may now be falling prey to the litigious tendencies of the mainstream health care system. This system includes not only the physicians but also the insurance companies, malpractice insurance companies, and, worst of all, the attorneys who likely took home half of that $250K–$300K settlement.

Ashley S. Goddard


Bastyr's Assurances

Faculty, students, and staff at Bastyr University are very sorry to hear of the passing of the patient described in Nina Shapiro's article "Death by Natural Causes" [June 8]. We are not writing to defend any one individual clinician's actions, but rather to assure readers and Seattle Weekly that we do provide doctoral-level medical training to our naturopathic physician graduates in the area of primary care. That is why they are licensed as primary care providers by the state.

The naturopathic medical program at Bastyr includes training in peak flow meters and other diagnostic and evaluation tools used by both physician and nonphysician providers, whether conventional or natural medicine. Students are trained to deliver medicine per the scope of practice guidelines of the Washington State Department of Health's licensing board. They are also well trained to understand the limits of natural medicine. This includes indications for referral to a specialist or emergency care.

Patients with a wide variety of conditions, illnesses, and circumstances are seen at our teaching clinic, and treatment may range from preventative health care to management of acute or long-term chronic illness. We train our graduates to determine the best treatment and management options for each patient. These options range from the naturopathic physician providing the care, to co-managing the patient's care with a medical doctor/osteopathic doctor specialist, to referral to a specialist for drug therapy or surgery, to referral to the emergency room for immediate stabilization.

The incident described in the article is a tragedy, and we express our sincere condolences to the patient's family and friends.

Gannady Raskin, M.D., N.D.

Dean, School of Naturopathic Medicine, Bastyr University

Jamey Wallace, N.D.

Medical Director, Bastyr Center for Natural Health

Fighting Chain Saws

We wholeheartedly agree that "cutting down the city's trees should never be easy" [Mossback, "Chain Saw Greg," June 8]. As we work at long-term reforestation efforts in the West Duwamish Greenbelt (our city's largest remaining forest bordering our most polluted industrial corridor), we are hoping the mayor and City Council will see the wisdom in saving the 7-acre Soundway property, which is part of the greenbelt. Preserving this little-known but very valuable property will have a dramatic impact on the surrounding low-income neighborhoods that are continually affected by the pollution and fumes emanating from the industry along the Duwamish River.

The state recently earmarked $500,000 toward preserving Soundway. A multitude of neighborhood residents and community groups are all working together to raise the remaining $800,000 needed to save Soundway from the sound of chain saws and bulldozers. We want to preserve the sounds of birds and wildlife and the taste and smell of clean air in this amazing natural habitat. More information about the property can be found at

Nancy Whitlock

Executive Director, The Nature Consortium

Not in Her Dotage

Re Keith Harris' review of Sally Crewe's Shortly After Take-Off [Useful Noise, "Unsettling Down," June 8]: "Neither car-loving Brit Sally Crewe nor N.Y.C. rust-belt transplant Leah Archibald is in her dotage—the latter just turned 40, and though the former's coy enough to write something called 'Lying About My Age,' she's in that neighborhood."

With all due respect to Ms. Archibald, Sally just turned 30.

While the CD is described by Harris as "Crewe's first Austin album," the entire record was written and—save for one track—recorded in London.

Gerard Cosloy

Owner, 12XU, Austin, TX

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