Some Notes on
Leanna J. Standish, N.D., Ph.D., Dipl.Ac.
Stephen Barrett, MD
In February 2003, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) announced that it was assembling a committee to identify major scientific and policy issues in "complementary and alternative medicine" ("CAM") research, regulation, training, credentialing and "integration with conventional medicine." As part of this process, it posted the names of 15 appointees and asked for public comment about their suitability. I replied by challenging nine of the proposed members. Here are IOM's biographical sketch of Leanna Standish and the comments I submitted. After the comment period ended, she was dropped from the proposed committee.
|IOM Description (February 2003): Leanna Standish is Senior Research Scientist, former Director of the Bastyr University Research Institute from 1987-2001, AIDS Research Center Principal Investigator and Director of the Bastyr Hepatitis C Clinic. She is a licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist with a 25-year career as a research scientist in experimental neuroscience with numerous publications. Her clinical practice specializes in cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis C and neurological diseases. Prior to her work in natural medicine research and naturopathic medical practice, she served for two years as Visiting Scientist and Senior Fellow at the University of Washington?s Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Dr. Standish also directs the Breast Cancer Research Program at Bastyr University and was appointed as a member of the Advisory Council for NIH?s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine 1999-2001, and has served on the NCI Cancer Advisory Panel for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Currently she is principal investigator on several NIH/NCCAM funded research projects in the areas of HIV/AIDS and basic neurophysiological research on mind/body interaction. In September 2000, she was named by Seattle Magazine as one of Seattle?s Top Doctors. Dr. Standish teaches a course within the Spirituality, Health and Medicine program at Bastyr University that focuses on scientific evidence from physicians and biology that addresses some of the propositions emerging out of modern spiritual disciples. Her scholarly interests include philosophy, biology, consciousness science, and medicine.|
My Comments (Posted on February 23, 2003)
- Naturopathic theory and practice are not based upon the body of basic knowledge related to health, disease, and health care which has been widely accepted by the scientific community. Naturopaths assert that diseases are the body's effort to purify itself, and that cures result from increasing the patient's "vital force." They claim to stimulate the body's natural healing processes by ridding it of waste products and toxins ("detoxification").
- Standish is lead author of the 20-page chapter on HIV/AIDS in the second (1999) edition of the Textbook of Natural Medicine (naturopathy's leading textbook). Its recommended treatment includes beta carotene 150,000 IU/day; vitamin C 6000 mg/day; vitamin E 400 IV/day; cod liver oil 1 tablespoon/day; multivitamin and mineral supplement twice a day; colloidal silver; and a huge list of other questionable products. The recommended dosage of vitamin C can cause severe diarrhea. The FDA has declared colloidal silver useless for any medicinal purpose. The recommendations also include dozens of worthless homeopathic products, including "homeopathic marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, heroin, amyl nitrate, etc."
- The chapter notes that no randomized clinical trial had addressed whether naturopathic care provides any benefit to people with HIV infections. It also states that preliminary data on 500 patients from Bastyr's own research "indicate that HIV+ men and women who use complementary and alternative medicine exclusively do not fare as well over 6 months as those who use both conventional drug therapy and complementary and alternative medicine." But that doesn't stop Standish and her colleagues from recommending more than a hundred irrational products. Moreover, even though chapter concludes that "it is currently unclear as to whether naturopathic or other kinds of 'holistic care' produce similar, poorer or superior outcomes to standard conventional therapy," the chapter's first page maintains that naturopathy's treatment principles "should guide the physician in assisting patients in optimizing their health, slowing disease progression, improving quality of life, and possibly improving immune function."
- Standish's current research includes a study whose aim is demonstrate that one person's brain can influence the EEG findings of a person who is about 45 feet away. She apparently believes that "distant healing" is possible through brain-to-brain "neural energy transmission."
- Standish may strike people as very bright and knowledgeable. But her involvement with so many irrational health practices should make her ineligible for an IOM "expert" committee.
This article was revised on January 15, 2005.