Rashid Buttar’s going down: The North Carolina Board of Medical Examiners finally acts

Ah, a lazy Saturday morning. So here I am in the late morning, perusing my e-mail (including e-mail notifications of blog posts) after purposely not having checked them at all last night (and, in fact, even having gone to see a movie for the first time in many months), and what should a reader send me but a bit of very good news:

RALEIGH –A panel of the N.C. Medical Board recommended Thursday that Huntersville’s Dr. Rashid Buttar be prohibited from treating children or patients with cancer because his alternative medicine practice is below accepted medical standards in North Carolina.

The panel’s recommendation, which came after two days of testimony in a public hearing, now goes to the full board, which is expected to make a final decision in July.

Buttar, whose unconventional therapies include intravenous infusions of multiple chemicals, vitamins and minerals, accused the board of conducting a “witch hunt” and vowed to “do everything in my power to protect my patients.”

The panel also found that Buttar exploited patients by charging exorbitant fees for unproven therapies that didn’t work. The panel recommended that his license be suspended indefinitely, but that the suspension be immediately stayed. Until the board decides, Buttar may practice without restrictions.

This is the same medical board that Dr. Buttar had previously characterized as a “rabid dog.” Sadly, most medical boards are more like pampered lap dogs who are afraid to do what needs to be done to protect the public from doctors like Buttar. Here’s hoping that this rabid dog finally bites Rashid buttar.

Of course, I’m under no illusion that this is the last of this case. Buttar has lots and lots of money, thanks to his selling dubious treatments such as “transdermal chelation” for autism, something for which he was utterly unable to demonstrate that the drug was even absorbed through the skin and questions about which he dodged and weaved when pressed, and his even more dubious cancer “therapies.” Now that I think of it, Buttar is widely known for exceedingly dubious treatments for autism, and I’m very disappointed that the Board didn’t go after him for that as well as his cancer quackery. On the other hand, it did also forbid him from treating children, which would really put a crimp in his treating of autistic children. Maybe he could make it up by treating adult autistics (you know, the ones that the mercury militia claims do not exist). In fact, now that I think of it, I’m even more disappointed that the Board didn’t strip him of his medical license altogether.

So what sort of defense can Buttar offer? This:

During his four hours of testimony Thursday, Buttar, 42, disputed the board’s allegation that his therapies do not meet the standard of care in North Carolina. “It’s not the standard of care,” he said. “It’s beyond the standard of care.”

In response to criticism about prescribing weeks of intravenous infusions for three advanced cancer patients, Buttar explained he doesn’t treat cancer, but rather the conditions that allow cancer to thrive. He said he uses treatments to remove excess heavy metals and to boost the immune system.

Yep, all cancer, it would appear, is due to heavy metal poisoning and some unspecified “immune system” problem. One of the Board members hit it right on the head:

“Doesn’t it strike you as a little strange that every patient that comes through your door has heavy metal toxicity?” Dr. Art McCulloch, a Charlotte anesthesiologist, asked Buttar’s nurse practitioner, Jane Garcia.

I assume that Dr. McColloch’s question was rhetorical, because it’s not strange at all. One of the cardinal signs of quackery is a strong tendency to give every patient the same diagnosis and to offer the same dubious “therapy” to fix that diagnosis. Look at Hulda Clark, for instance. To her, all cancer is caused by a liver fluke. Hulda Clark, Rashid Buttar, what’s the difference.

None at all, other than that Buttar has a medical degree.

Although Dr. Buttar’s deep pockets, filled with money from patients from whom he’s taken many thousands of dollars but offered nothing more than snake oil (and that’s actually an insult to snake oil) could eventually prevail and although the Board didn’t go far enough and strip Buttar of his medical license, we boosters of science- and evidence-based medicine have to take our little victories as they come. In Dr. Buttar’s honor, after I finish writing this and responding to the rest of my e-mail, I plan on going out into our back yard to pick up dog poop. It’s been two weeks since I last did it, and our dog is not a small dog. I realize that my task will be far less unpleasant than the task that the North Carolina Board of Medical Examiners has just undertaken, but it’s the best I can do on a Saturday.

I can’t think of a better analogy to Dr. Buttar’s being disciplined than that. The problem is that it’s too good an analogy. No matter how much dog poop I pick up and how often I do it, our dog always makes more, and I have to do it again. Once Buttar is gone from the medical scene, there will always be more like him to take his place.