Alice W. Lee-Bloem, M.D., a holistic psychiatrist practicing in
After a raging, two-year battle in the
Mr. Jacques Simon, the lead attorney in this case, brilliantly executed the legal defense and assault against the Board on behalf of Dr. Lee-Bloem through the proceedings in the state courts and at the administrative level. With national legal expertise in protecting integrative medicine and physicians who practice cutting edge medicine, he defeated the Maryland Board in its efforts to quash alternative medicine, which efforts were marred by legal and constitutional deficiencies. Mr. Alan Dumoff, an attorney practicing in
Also supporting Dr. Lee-Bloem during the administrative proceedings as expert witnesses were Hyla Cass, M.D., a renowned holistic psychiatrist and author, and Michael Spodak, M.D., Chairman of the Peer Review Committee, with twenty years of experience on the statewide peer review committee. Both were instrumental in the successful defeat of the Board’s intent to punish Dr. Lee-Bloem for practicing “outside the standard of care”, or, in other words, using nutritional supplements and energy medicine to help a patient to successfully reduce prescription medication use.
The Maryland Board began the peer review proceedings against Dr. Lee-Bloem after receiving a letter of complaint from a patient’s ex-partner (April, 2005), who had never been involved in the patient’s treatment. The ex-partner had had a hostile relationship with the patient and objected to the patient’s preference for integrative medicine. The patient immediately wrote a letter to the Board to ask them to drop all proceedings against Dr. Lee-Bloem, clarifying all misrepresentations in the ex-partner’s letter of complaint. However, the Maryland Board chose to ignore the patient’s request and moved forward with the peer review proceedings in August, 2006. Significantly, in an apparent attempt to block access to important information from the patient and to minimize the importance of the patient’s satisfaction with Dr. Lee-Bloem’s medical care, the Board prohibited the state peer reviewers from interviewing the patient. It decided to do so under the pretense that interviewing the patient might trigger additional medical complications. That position was dismissed and laughed at outright by the lead peer reviewer in the case, Michael Spodak, M.D. He stated that the Board’s position was insulting to the peer reviewers, who routinely treated such conditions and knew how to interview psychiatric patients without causing further medical complications.
Because the first two peer reviewers differed in their opinions about the case, a third peer reviewer was called in to break the tie. This third peer reviewer revealed during the administrative hearings that he had a significant conflict of interest in this case as he had been the last treating physician before Dr. Lee-Bloem took over treatment. In fact, he was the attending physician who provided treatment during the patient’s last hospitalization: the very treatment that the patient rejected in favor of orthomolecular psychiatry. He expressed in court that he personally felt that he did not have a conflict of interest in this case and thus he did not feel compelled to disclose this information to the Board. This peer reviewer kept his involvement in the patient’s treatment a secret, until questioning during the cross examination forced him to reveal this embarrassing fact. None of the peer reviewers had any training or clinical experience in orthomolecular psychiatry or energy medicine. However, this did not prevent two of them from believing that they could judge a holistic psychiatrist’s treatment decisions, and they proceeded to do so without any consideration for or understanding of the role of nutrition in mental health.
The Board’s efforts to marshal a legally flawed case against Dr. Lee-Bloem included, but were not limited to: (1) not interviewing the patient, (2) deliberately and repeatedly misrepresenting the patient’s psychiatric condition under Dr. Lee-Bloem’s care in its own papers and documents given to the peer reviewers and subsequently made available during the discovery process, (3) lying about agreement among its own peer reviewers when none existed, and (4) trying to prevent Dr. Spodak from testifying. Despite these various manipulations, the Board failed in its attempt to support any of its charges, and the ALJ was clearly unconvinced by the Board as demonstrated by her complete dismissal of all charges on September 11, 2008.
The Maryland Board, however, had a history of ignoring the ALJ’s decisions regarding alternative medicine practices if they conflicted with the Board’s agenda. In addition, over the years, the Maryland Board had developed a reputation of being hostile towards holistic medicine and was notorious for removing licenses from clinicians practicing integrative medicine in
In light of all the challenges that had to be faced in order to win this case, it is truly a victory to be celebrated. As in the fictional Harry Potter’s win against overwhelming odds, Dr. Lee-Bloem defended integrative medicine against a state organization that had every advantage, and yet won—hands down. It is hoped that announcing this victory will give further encouragement to all those interested in the progress of integrative medicine.
Dr. Lee-Bloem is grateful for all the help and support from family, friends, and other integrative clinicians and doctors who have helped through advice, time, money, and emotional support throughout the years.