Some Notes on Michael Gerber, M.D.

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Michael Gerber, M.D., has practiced orthomolecular medicine, chelation therapy and "nutrition" therapy for more than 35 years. He founded and directs the Gerber Medical Clinic in Reno, Nevada, which offers acupuncture, neural therapy, Sanum Therapy, homeopathy, herbology, and detoxification, and various other nonstandard modalities. He is a past president of the Orthomolecular Medical Society and for many years served as President of the Nevada Homeopathic and Integrative Medical Association [1].

Gerber's license to practice medicine in California was revoked in June 1984 after the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance concluded that he had improperly administered to patients. One was a 56-year-old woman with treatable cancer who—the Board concluded—had died as a result of Gerber's neglect while he treated her with herbs, enzymes, coffee enemas, and chelation therapy. The other patients were three-year-old twin boys with ear infections for which Gerber had prescribed 70,000 or more units of vitamin A daily and coffee enemas twice daily for several weeks. Gerber lost his California license to practice medicine as a result of the hearings. He now practices in Nevada under a homeopathic license.

This case was initiated by an independent oncologist who treated a former Gerber patient in her terminal phase, when her uterine cancer had metastasized widely. The central issue in this case was Gerber's unconventional treatment of the patient when she was first diagnosed. The oncologist believed that Gerber, while practicing as a self-described "orthomolecular practitioner," inappropriately treated a potentially curable patient for 27 months with Hoxsey herbs, megavitamins, chelation therapy, Wobe Mugos enzymes, Chaparral tea, pangamic acid, benzaldehyde, wheatgrass juice, coffee or enzyme enemas, apricot pits, red clover, and slippery elm [2].

Gerber contended that he was not attempting to treat the patient's cancer, but rather to nutritionally and metabolically support a patient who had refused conventional treatment. The Board dismissed that assertion because the witnesses for Gerber testified that the above substances typically were used because they were believed to be "cancer inhibitors." The Board did not find convincing the testimony about the nutritional and metabolic value of any of these treatments for a patient with endometrial cancer [2].

The Board agreed with the State's expert witnesses that with immediate standard treatment, the patient would have had a 90% chance of long-term survival. The Board found that Gerber:

should have known and recognized that surgery and/or radiation treatment were the recognized, effective, and sole medically acceptable means of treatment of adenocarcinoma of the endometrium, according to the standard of medical practice in California [2].

Further note was made that the patient apparently canceled a scheduled surgery several days after first consulting Gerber, and although he documented in her chart that she was being treated by several other unconventional practitioners, he did not record that he suggested she seek conventional care. The Board wrote:

The accepted standard of medical practice for a patient [presenting] with a well-differentiated adenocarcinoma of the endometrium, and who adamantly refuses conventional accepted treatment therefore, is: 1) continuously and emphatically to encourage the patient to seek conventional treatment; 2) strongly discourage any patient attempts to seek out unproven modalities. . . ; and 3) not to undertake courses of unproven treatment and/or substance use, because these have the effect of lulling patient fears or misleading her to conclude that effective cancer therapy is in progress. It was established and it is found that such activity falsely reassures cancer patients concerning their prognosis and discourages them from seeking effective and timely treatment [2].

The Board found Gerber guilty of gross negligence and incompetence, repeated similar negligent acts, and other similar charges. The finding of guilt was due, in part, to his use of substances unapproved by either State or Federal authorities for the treatment of cancer, and excessively prescribing and administering diagnostic tests and ineffective drugs and treatments [2]. In 1988, Gerber petitioned for reinstatement of his license, but the board denied his request after concluding:

Petitioner has failed to demonstrate that he has changed his practice techniques in any significant way since the revocation of his license. Petitioner is still active in groups which advocate alternative treatment modalities, still employs chelation therapy and still utilizes coffee enemas. Petitioner has not shown any real change in his seeming distrust of conventional medical treatment. Further, in his testimony before the panel petitioner showed no remorse for or recognition and appreciation of the severity of the offenses for which he was disciplined [3].

In 2001, I learned that patients wishing to undergo treatment at the Gerber Medical Clinic had to sign a "treatment and arbitration agreement" which stated (in part):

In order to have [Michael Gerber, M.D., H.M.D.] render Medical Services to me (us), which he would not otherwise render, I (we) hereby enter into the following agreement:

I (we) understand that the above named may prescribe or recommend orthomolecular medicine, homeopathic medicine, nutritional supplements, vitamins, herbs, and physical therapy, in addition to drugs, surgery, and psychotherapy. I (we) understand that the above named may utilize FDA registered diagnostic tools and unregistered experimental diagnostic tools. I (we) understand that if I (we) do not wish such treatment, I am (we are) free to select another physician.

I (we) hereby agree that any and all malpractice disputes, that is, any dispute as to whether any services rendered by the above named, their staff or assistants, were unauthorized, or unnecessary, or grossly negligent, or improperly, or otherwise incompetently rendered, will be determined by submission to arbitration as provided by Nevada law, and not by lawsuit or resort to court process, except as Nevada law provides for review or arbitration proceedings. All parties, by entering into it, are giving up their constitutional right to have such dispute decided in a court of law, before jury, or before the court, and instead are accepting the use of arbitration.

I (we) further agree that this agreement is and shall be binding upon my (our) legal representatives, heirs, dependents, next of kin, legatees, and distributees.

Patients were also asked to sign a "Patient Statement of Intent" which stated:

  1. I wish to consult Dr. Gerber solely for reason concerning my own personal health.
  2. I am not associated with and do not represent any enforcement, regulatory, or investigative agency of either the municipal, state, or federal government, or any other investigative agency, which monitors any aspect of health care or the practice of medicine.
  3. I am not consulting Dr. Gerber in order to report to or otherwise provide any information to any enforcement, regulatory, or federal government, or any other investigative agency.

I do not know whether he uses these forms today.

References

  1. Biographical sketch. Alternative Medicine Digest, May 2000, p 76.
  2. Order. In the Matter of the Accusation Against: Michael L. Gerber, M.D.. California Board of Medical Quality Assurance, Case No. D-2990, N20092, May 21, 1984.
  3. Decision. In the Matter of the petition for reinstatement of revoked certificate of Michael Lee Gerber. California Board of Medical Quality Assurance, OAH No. N32371, Nov 3, 1988.

This page was revised on July 15, 2012.

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