Regulatory Action against "Nutritionist" Joyce Tasker
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
In 2006, the Washington Department of Health ordered Joyce M. Tasker of Coleville, Washington, to stop practicing medicine and veterinary medicine without a license. The department's motion for summary judgment (shown below) stated that Tasker, who had never held a license to provide any type of health-care, had been using electrodermal testing (EDT) to diagnose a wide variety of problems in humans and animals. Tasker appealed to her local trial court and then to the Court of Appeals, both of which upheld the Health Department's decision. EDT is a bogus procedure based on the notion that health problems can be detected by measuring skin resistance to a tiny electrical current.
STATE OF WASHINGTON
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
ADJUDICATIVE SERVICE UNIT
In the Matter of the Unlicensed Practice
Joyce M. Tasker
UNLICENSED PROGRAM MOTION
The Department of Health Unlicensed Practice Program (Program) moves for Summary Judgment. The motion is based on the supporting memorandum below.
A. Procedural History
This case started in June 2003 when the Department received a complaint from an Oklahoma physician, George M. Cuka, M.D., alleging that Joyce Tasker was practicing medicine without a license based on information on her website. The website information indicated that Ms. Tasker was offering something known as electro dermal testing (EDT). Dr. Cuka found particularly “offensive and dangerous” that Ms. Tasker purported to treat both humans and animals by the same type of testing. Department Investigator, Nick Lorentz, in November 2003 filed an Investigation Report after reviewing the website and contacting Ms. Tasker at her home in Colville. Based on the investigation, the Program in March 2005 filed against Ms. Tasker a Notice of Intent to Issue a Cease and Desist Order (NOI), alleging that she was engaged in the unlicensed practice of medicine and veterinary medicine. After receiving two extensions, Ms. Tasker in June 2005 filed a timely request for adjudicative proceeding to contest the NOI. The case is set for hearing on February 14, 2006. The Program and Ms. Tasker have filed cross-motions for summary judgment in an attempt to resolve the case without the necessity of a hearing.
B. Electrodermal Testing (EDT)
West German physician Reinhold Voll developed EDT in the 1950s. Proponents claim that an EDT device measures the “body's flow of 'electromagnetic energy' along acupuncture meridian”. Practitioners use the device to “help select the treatment they prescribe, which usually involve homeopathic products.” They claim that they “can determine the cause of any disease by detecting the 'energy imbalance' causing the problem.” EDT devices typically operate as follows:
The device emits a tiny direct electric current… that flows through a wire from the device to a brass cylinder covered by moist gauze, which the patient holds in one hand. A second wire is connected from the device to a probe, which the operator touches to 'acupuncture points' on the patients hand or foot. This completes a low-voltage circuit and the device registers the flow of current.
The information is then relayed to a gauge or computer screen that provides a numeric readout on a numeric scale of 0 to 100. According to Voll's theory, readings from 45 to 55 are normal ('balanced'); readings above 55 indicate inflammation of the organ associated with the 'meridian' being tested; readings below 45 suggest 'organ stagnation and degeneration.' The size of the number actually depends on how hard the probe is pressed against the patient's skin.
In her deposition, Ms. Tasker claims that she bought her first EDT machine (Orion) three years ago, and then upgraded to a new machine (Asyra) which she now uses in her practice. The manufacturer claims that Asyra is the superior EDT device, and makes many extravagant claims, including:
- EDT is “probably more reliable” than any other form of allergy testing.
- “In clinical practice” EDT is “useful as diagnostic supplements to blood tests, radiographic imaging” and “characterizing differences between inflammatory and degenerative conditions.”
- “The integration of reliable bioelectric medical instruments into the clinical setting augments the ability to rapidly evaluate tissues which are difficult or impossible to assess by conventional test procedures.”
- Studies show EDT gender and age do not “effect” EDT results, which is “important for considering in using these measurements for medical diagnosis.”
- EDT measures the “first level homeostatic, bioelectrical, influences that control through the automatic nervous system, which is responsible for the equilibrium in the internal systems of the body.”
- Conventional medical tests confirm EDT's ability to diagnose tumors.
- “By measuring electrical resistant over time, EDT devices provide clinicians with a dynamic profile of … oscillatory patterns, [holding] great promise for the early diagnosis of significant disease states and for earlier and more effective treatments.
- EDT research found a “relation to diagnosed heart disease and electrical resistant of tissues connected through a meridian pathway.”
- EDT has “shown that acupuncture point bears a direct relationship on the anatomical structure or physiological function in the body.”
- Studies show that EDT is a “beneficial adjunct” to a physician in prescribing remedies to their patients.
While citing purported scientific studies to support its extravagant claims, the Asyra manufacturer refuses to provide copies of the studies because doing so would be “far to [sic] time consuming.”
C. Efforts To Prevent Use Of EDT
Under the Consumer Protection Act, the State of Washington brought an action in King County Superior Court against EDT practitioner Monte Kline. From clinics in Bellevue and Spokane, Kline used an EDT device to assess clients' health and to prescribe remedies. One of the State's claims was that Kline's use of EDT constituted the unlicensed practice of medicine. On summary judgment, the State in June 2005 prevailed on the claim, and the court enjoined Kline from continuing to use EDT, and fined him $1 million. The Department filed its own injunctive action against Kline in King County Superior Court. The action was consolidated with the Consumer Protection action, and the Court granted the Department's request for an injunction against Kline.
The Department also filed an NOI against one of Kline's employees, Patsy J. Mattfeld, who administered EDT. Ms. Mattfeld recently settled the case by agreeing to a permanent cease and desist order and by paying a $2,000 fine. In a filing with the Presiding Officer, Ms. Tasker noted that in 2003 and 2004 the Program failed to take action against two other Kline employees. Ms. Tasker accurately stated in no uncertain terms that her EDT work involves “exactly the same thing” as performed by Kline's employees. Thus, the Kline determination directly relates to this case.
In May 2004, the Medical Quality Assurance Commission disciplined a Yakima physician, Williams Ames, for using an EDT device to treat allergies since the device was “inefficacious.” Additionally, in People v. Rogers, 249 Mich. App. 77, 641 N.W.2d 595 (2001), the court upheld a criminal conviction for practicing EDT without the required medical license. In U.S. v. Century Clinic, 75 F.Supp.3d 1127 (D.C.Nev.1998), the court approved a consent decree to prevent a physician from practicing EDT, and then found him in contempt for violating the decree. Many other regulatory actions have been taken against EDT practitioners. The Program is not aware of any case in which a court or government agency has ruled in favor of an EDT practitioner. Given the one-sided litigation history, in her deposition, Ms. Tasker admits that it would be “absolutely asinine” for her to try to defend the merits of EDT.
D. Purpose of Unlicensed Practice Law
RCW 18.130.190 authorizes the Department to issue Cease and Desist Orders against persons who engage in the practice of various health care professions, including medicine and veterinary medicine, without having a required license to do so. The provisions in RCW 18.30 (Uniform Disciplinary Act) are intended to “assure the public of the adequacy of professional competence and conduct in healing arts.” RCW 18.130.010. Licensing is a constitutional “exercise of the state's police power and is reasonably related to the public health, safety, and welfare” by preventing the “inadequately trained and uneducated from practicing in areas in which competency is lacking.” Griffith v.Department of Motor Vehicles, 23 Wn.App. 722, 730-31, 598 P.2d 1377 (1979).
Licensing assures that practitioners providing health care treatment to the public are qualified to practice and adhere to certain standards in conducting their practice. Unlicensed practitioners, of course, are not subject to any regulation. The danger is that unlicensed practitioners will: (1) offer care that is harmful to a customer's health because they lack expertise; (2) cause persons not to seek needed health-care advice from qualified professionals; and (3) defraud customers by providing worthless treatment in exchange for the customer's money. As explained below, all three dangers exist in Ms. Tasker's unlicensed practice of medicine.
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
The Department's Presiding Officer may rule on “motions.” WAC 246-10-602(2)(e). The Program brings a Summary Judgment Motion. No statute or rule specifies the criteria for the Presiding Officer ruling on a Summary Judgment Motion. Thus, the Presiding Officer should apply the “best legal authority.” WAC 246-10-602(3)(b). The best legal authority is the test in C.R. 57(c), which states that summary judgment should be granted when “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
The issue in this case is whether, in performing EDT, Ms. Tasker has engaged in the unlicensed practice of medicine and veterinary medicine. If so, the issue under RCW 18.130.190(3) becomes the language of a Cease and Desist Order and the appropriate amount of a civil fine against Ms. Tasker.
A. A Person May Not Practice Medicine Or Veterinary Medicine Without A License To Do So
Ms. Tasker acknowledges that she is not licensed to practice medicine or veterinary medicine. Under RCW 18.71.021, a person without a license may not “practice medicine,” as that term is defined in RCW 18.71.011. Under RCW 18.72.070, a person may not “practice veterinary medicine,” as that term is defined in RCW 18.72.010.
B. Ms. Tasker's “Disclaimer” Does Not Exempt Her From An Unlicensed-Practice Violation
On her website, Ms. Tasker posts a boilerplate “disclaimer” that she is not offering medical care or veterinary care. Nothing in either the medicine (RCW 18.71) or the veterinary medicine (RCW 18.92) statute allows a person to avoid the licensing requirement simply by making a disclaimer. Otherwise, persons could do anything they wanted as long as they said they were not practicing medicine. The licensing requirement would be so easy to avoid that it would become meaningless. Instead, whether Ms. Tasker is practicing medicine or veterinary medicine, within the meaning of the statutes, depends entirely on what she actually does and offers to do. In this case, the Presiding Officer - not Ms. Tasker through a simple boilerplate declaimer - will determine through an examination of the evidence whether her activity falls within the practice of medicine and veterinary medicine.
C. Ms. Tasker Is Engaged In The Practice of Medicine
Under RCW 18.71.011, the “practice of medicine” (for which is license in required) occurs whenever a person:
(1) Offers or undertakes to diagnose, cure, advise, or prescribe for any human disease, ailment, injury, infirmity, deformity, pain, or other condition, physical or mental, real or imaginary, by any means or instrumentality;
(2) Administers or prescribes drugs or medicinal preparations to be used by any other person;
As discussed below, Ms. Tasker clearly is engaged in activity encompassed by the board language in both subsections (1) and (2) and therefore is “practicing medicine” in violation of the law.
1. RCW 18.71.011 Does Not Distinguish Between “Alternative” Medicine And “Traditional” Medicine.
First, throughout this case, Ms. Tasker has insisted that the activity described in RCW 18.71.011(1) does not apply to her EDT practice. First, it is interesting that Ms. Tasker admits she performs “alternative medicine” or “drugless healing.” Both terms imply that she engages in activity encompassed by RCW 18.71.011(1). The definition plainly does not differentiate between “alternative” and “traditional” forms of medicine. Instead, the statute covers all activity that fits the description within the broad definition of offering/providing health advice and care. Significantly, RCW 18.71.030 contains 14 different exemptions from the medical licensing requirement, none of which exempt the practice of “alternative medicine,” drugless healing,” or EDT. Clearly, the law does not exempt “alternative medicine” from the definition of the “practice of medicine.”
2. Ms. Tasker's Website Shows That She Is Offering To Practice Medicine.
RCW 18.71.011 defines the practice of medicine to occur whenever a person “offers” to engage in the described activity. An “offer” may occur even if a person does not actually engage in the offered activity.
During the investigation, Ms. Tasker presented the Investigator with a fancy certificate dated September 2001 from the “Educational Board of The American Institute of Energy” conferring on her the “Professional Title of Technician of BioEnergetic Medicine and Electro Dermal Screening.” Ms. Tasker's title clearly suggests that she practices some form of medicine.
More importantly, Ms. Tasker maintained a website advertising her EDT activity. As explained below, the material from the website, as well as the statements made by Ms. Tasker in her deposition, clearly show that she has “offered” to practice medicine.
On her website, Ms. Tasker explains in very authoritative and medical-sounding terms how EDT works:
CEDS is an electrodermal testing device which works by measuring electrical resistance and polarization at meridians.
When a cell is injured by infection, toxins, trauma, etc., swelling occurs. This swelling causes a resistance to the flow of electrons across the cell membrane into the cytoplasm of the cell. This can be measured by an ohm meter when the resistance reading in higher than a cell in a health state, it is an indication of inflammation. As cells begin to die, scar tissue, the resistance (impedance) begins to drop until it reaches zero…
The meridian energy flow carries with it information about internal organs that can be used in diagnosis. This is the basis is Computerized Electrodermal Screening (CEDS). The device is used in the CEDS is an electrodermal screen device, which works by measuring the electrical resistance and polarization at acupuncture points and meridians. Through these safe, skin-level measurements, it is possible to analyze the bio-energy and bio-information produced by internal organs and systems.
CEDS is one of the most thorough, powerful, and promising modern, holistic medical/diagnostic methodologies. CEDS addresses the body holistically for a number of reasons: A standard CEDS examination enables the operator to quickly and safely collect information on 40 different individual systems. In other words, all of the body's individual parts are covered in an examination. The bio-information signal read by CEDS is a very direct and true description of the condition of the body because it is created by the body.
The meridian network regulates or at least participates in every time of bodily function, so naturally it is a very good means by which to monitor the function of the whole body. Product testing allows the operator to test any and every type of medication on the individual patient, including those made from herbs, metals, nosodes, or sarcodes. This allows the operator to explore all available treatment.
Computerized Electrodermal Screening identified pathogens, toxins, organ, and emotional dysfunctions even before the symptoms manifest. It determines the correct dosage for maximum effect, using dilutions of energy from over 60,000 homeopathic, herbal, diakra, allopathics, & more. CEDS is non-evasive, inexpensive, effective. It is an undispensible tool with which to maintain or achieve health or wellbeing.
Our CEDS balancing system is done with the state-of-the-art Orion System. Dog Patch tests and balances more pets with this spectacular technology than any other system in the world.
Of course, unlicensed persons legally may simply talk or write about whatever medical theory they want. The unlawful “offer” to practice medicine occurs at a precise point: when Ms. Tasker on her website solicits customers to either come to her in person or to mail her samples of their blood or saliva for EDT testing. The cost for the testing is $150 for humans.
The unmistakably “medical” nature of Ms. Tasker's activity is underscored even further by the health history form that customers fill out prior to testing.
In her deposition, Ms. Tasker explains how she diagnoses through EDT. She tests for “electromagnetic energies” that are not tested by physicians. According to Ms. Tasker, the test identifies “electromagnetic signature, the immaterial electromagnetic signature of all kinds in their bodies, whether it's Parkinson's or something else.” She thinks that these electromagnetic signatures “pile up in the body” like “worms in a computer.” She concedes that “it's a very complicated process (that) even the most brilliant physicists do not yet understand.” She further explains:
You know my testing is for electromagnetic signatures. And so if I see the electromagnetic signatures of, let's say a pituitary tumor, then if a person's question is 'could that be physical,' then I would have to tell them what some of the physical indications would be, but it isn't telling them that they have the physical problems. It's just indicating to a person that these are the physical things that they would notice if it was - if it was a physical thing. But I don't know, because I test for electromagnetic signatures.
So if a person comes in and they have an electromagnetic signature, and the [EDT] computer says it's the electromagnetic signature as whatever it may be, say porphyria or whatever, then there is an electromagnetic signature match.
A critical component of the business is that Ms. Tasker uses the EDT results to prescribe various remedies or “tinctures” to improve the client's health. Indeed, EDT practitioners typically use testing as a marketing gimmick to sell remedies. In her deposition, Ms. Tasker attempted to explain the mystifying process of identifying the correct tincture for the customer:
Q: Can you describe what a tincture is?
A: The tincture is water and alcohol, or it is a commercial homeopathic preparation, and the recording of the electromagnetic field is imprinted into that tincture.
Q: The record being?
A: The electromagnetic fields that are detected in the client and stored in the computer and then essentially downloaded into a tincture. And the animal is either given that tincture, or the person, if it happens to be a person, takes their own electromatic fields by taking it imprinted into the tincture.
Q: Okay. And what is the form that the downloaded energy takes? I mean, how is it imprinted? How does that work as a matter of mechanics or physics?
A: It is all—it's all—let me see what would be the right word. All of the signatures are stored, just like all the information in a computer, in zeros and ones. And each electromagnetic signature has its own pattern of zeros and ones, and that's how it's stored onto the computer. And the computer just imprints the frequencies or the force fields of those patterns that are - than come from the client, imprints it into the tincture.
Q: And how do you do that?
A: I put the—if I'm using a commercial homeopathic, then I put that homeopathic on the DCM.
Q: What is that DCM?
A: The digital conductance meter. And it would then - the digital conductance meter then detects the electromagnetic fields in the tincture, the prepared homeopathic tincture, the over-the-counter kind you buy at the store. It would detect those electromagnetic field, and the computer would compare those electromagnetic fields to the electromagnetic fields from the client that the stored in the computer. And the closer the match, then that tells me that a tincture, if it's a close match, that a tincture is similar to the electromagnetic fields in the client.
In her deposition, Ms. Tasker claims that she “gives away” the homeopathic remedies. However, her listing of remedies includes prices. Frankly, it is hard to believe that Ms. Tasker would provide these medications to her customers for free.
As an important marketing tool, Ms. Tasker's website contains numerous glowing testimonials from satisfied customers. The most elaborate testimonial comes from “JM” in the form of a letter to her doctor. JM states that she underwent 7-8 hours of EDT testing by Ms. Tasker, and learned the following:
That I had the energy signatures of Alzheimer's, Epstein Barr virus, Chronic Fatigue syndrome, and amazingly: my brain was burdened by energy signatures of heavy metals, aspartame, formaldehyde, and many other chemicals, including those used in bio-warfare, and Joyce believed, many used in prescription drugs (like HRT, etc.).
Ms. Tasker advised JM to discontinue three of her five doctor prescriptions, and instead take eight different homeopathic remedies. Subsequently, Ms. Tasker diagnosed JM with a benign tumor and Parkinson's. According to JM, her homeopathic remedies help her “with these newly diagnosed problems.” JM told her physician that she did not want to take her prescriptions because of her Alzheimer's diagnosis and because they were “poisoning” her.
The website has contained additional testimonials. S.M. had a thyroid condition and stomach pains, and after EDT experienced immediate relief of “long-term severe cramping.”
For the first time in 30 years, after undergoing EDT, R.G.'s psoriasis does not “break out” when he goes off his medication. J.T. was cured of porphyria, chemical sensitivity, and kidney/gall bladder cancer.
K.V. suffered from diabetes and a stroke. His physician gave him only nine months to live, but Ms. Tasker “proved them wrong.” Her EDT treatment allowed K.V. to gain improved circulation, increased mobility and weight loss, and to discontinue most of his medications.
J.R. claims that his physician confirmed the results of Ms. Tasker's “liver lab workup.” His dramatically-improved blood-test results are even posted on the website. J.W. experienced better “oxygen levels.” After treating her cat, N.B.D. states that Ms. Tasker treated him for a “really bad” lymph system and thyroid.
L.M. claims that Ms. Tasker's “Orion balancing” improved his “thinking” and made it easier to walk when he woke in the morning. Ms. Tasker identified L.M.'s “pituitary tumor” and then he stopped urinating too frequently because of the “balancing.” The treatment also cured L.M.'s multiple chemical sensitivity and his pain “in the area of the gallbladder.”
Ms. Tasker treated D.B., a seriously-ill cancer patient. She treated S.N., who is bi-polar and apparently was suicidal after having her upper teeth extracted. She treated S.G. for a virus on the optic nerve.
Clearly, Ms. Tasker posts these testimonials in an attempt to attract new customers by presenting herself as nothing short of a miraculous healer and as a supplement or alternative to a real doctor.
Based on the foregoing information, there is no doubt that Ms. Tasker is “offering” to “practice medicine” as that term is defined in RCW 18.71.011(1).
3. Ms. Tasker Is Actually Practicing Medicine.
The RCW 18.71.011 definition relates to an “offering” or “undertaking” to practice medicine. The discussion above relates to what Ms. Tasker “offers”. The evidence further shows that she has “undertaken” to practice medicine in the sense of actually conducting the activity. To verify this fact, the Program conducted discovery on Ms. Tasker to obtain her records related to EDT. Ms. Tasker responded that she did keep the names of clients or client records. When pressed, Ms. Tasker produced a sheet of paper with the names and e-mail addresses for seven clients. In her deposition, Ms. Tasker stated that she would not divulge the names of customers whose body fluids she allegedly tested in her car on an Indian reservation on the (mistaken) assumption that doing so allow her to engage in unlicensed practice free from the restrictions of state law.
In Prehearing Order No. 12, the Presiding Officer ordered Ms. Tasker to produce (1) client computerized records on all customers and (2) financial records of customer check deposits. Ms. Tasker simply ignored the Order and never produced the material. The record is clear that the Program's right to discovery was substantially thwarted by Ms. Tasker's refusal to provide documents other than a one-page list of seven hand-picked persons who allegedly received her services. It makes a mockery of discovery when one side produces only the evidence that it wants the other side to have.
In any event, the Program attempted to contact the seven customers, and was able to contact only two of them. Both were interviewed by the Attorney General's Office. Both were not available to sign a declaration. However, the interviews took place in the presence of an AGO paralegal. Exhibit 18 is a declaration of the paralegal about the two interviews. These interviews confirm that Ms. Tasker has provided medical advice and care.
Customer “A” had multiple health problems when she contacted Ms. Tasker for help. These problems included Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, Sjorgrens, autoimmune problems, “head tumors which showed a network of dead brain cells”, and she was forgetful. She felt she had “nothing to lose” by seeking treatment from Ms. Tasker. Her treatment was in-person, and she describes how the “computer automatically imprints energy into the tinctures.” “A” credits the “energy infusion that… goes into the tincture” for her improved health. She states that Ms. Tasker told her that her improved energy was consistent with her EDT that show “significantly fewer meridians in distress.”
The other customer, “B”, states that she learned about Ms. Tasker's services through a flyer. Thus, it is now known that Ms. Tasker advertises her services in more ways than just on her website. “B” states that she sought help for “sciatic pain.” “B” sent blood and saliva to Ms. Tasker for testing about four times, and also has appeared in person. According to “B”, Ms. Tasker has provided “homeopathic tinctures infused with my own energies.” She was charged $150 for the “infusion.” She states that she “continues to have a lot of sciatic discomfort” despite the treatment.
Finally, of course, the fact that Ms. Tasker's actually provides services is further validated by the numerous testimonials on her website.
4. Expert Opinion Supports The Program's Allegation That Ms. Tasker Is Practicing Medicine.
Exhibit # 19 is a declaration from Harriet Hall, M.D., stating her professional opinion that Ms. Tasker has engaged in the practice of medicine. Dr. Hall bases her opinion on the fact that Ms. Tasker: (1) solicits customers with health problems and offers treatment; (2) interprets test results and identifies illnesses through an “electronic signature”; (3) advises customers to follow her advice and provides them with medicinal preparations; (4) conducts follow-up visits and adjusts medications; (5) claims that her customers receive a health benefit from her services; and (6) holds herself out as an “alternative” health care provider.
D. Ms. Tasker Is Engaged In The Unlicensed Practice Of Veterinary Medicine.
The NOI also alleges that Ms. Tasker has engaged in the unlicensed “practice of veterinary medicine.” The issue is whether Ms. Tasker's activity falls within the RCW 18.92.010 definition of the practice of veterinary medicine.
1. Ms. Tasker's Activity Falls Within The Practice of Veterinary Medicine As Defined By RCW 18.91.010(1).
RCW 18.92.010(1) states that the practice occurs whenever a person:
By… statement… represents his or her ability or willingness to diagnose or prognose or treat diseases, deformities, wounds, or injuries of animals.
On her website, as discussed above, Ms. Tasker offers EDT services. According to the website, Ms. Tasker's services are available for animals, as well as for humans. Ms. Tasker makes no attempt to differentiate between them, except that she charges less for animal testing ($115) than for human testing ($150).
As with humans, Ms. Tasker posts testimonials on her website related to her health-care treatment of animals in order to entice new customers. She states or implies that she has diagnosed/treated cats and dogs for a variety of conditions, including:
(1) “Severe candida problem brought on by Thimersal (Vaccine Additive) (Tasha);
(2) Growing hair on bald spots (Tasha);
(3) Regain “motor function” after a “major bi-lateral stroke” (Buddy);
(4) Disappearance of a “lump in the groin area (Finnigan);
(5) Improved mobility (Finnigan);
(6) Weaned off codeine (Finnigan);
(7) Binge eating (Mia);
(8) Hyperactivity (Mia);
(9) Improved liver enzymes (Shasta);
(10) Improved disposition (Katie);
(11) Restored health (Ella);
(12) Migranes (Gabe);
(13) Back pain (Gabe);
(14) Emotional Problems (Gabe);
(15) Restored energy (Kaiya);
(16) Weight gain (Emerald); and
(17) Kidney failure (Emerald).
Based on the information on her website, it is clear that Ms. Tasker made statements of her “ability and willingness to diagnose or treat animal diseases.” Thus, her activity constitutes the “practice of veterinary medicine” as defined by RCW 18.92.010(1).
2. Ms. Tasker's Activity Falls Within the Practice of Veterinary Medicine As Defined By RCW 18.92.010(3)-(4).
RCW 18.92.010 states that the “practice of veterinary medicine” also means to:
(3) … diagnose or prognose animal diseases, deformities, defects, wounds, or injuries, for hire…
(4) … prescribe or administer any drug, medicine, treatment, method or practice, or apply any apparatus or appliance for the cure, amelioration, correction, or modification of any animal disease, deformity, defect, wound or injury, for hire…
Clearly, Ms. Tasker's offer of services, as described above, meets the criteria of this statute, The question is whether Ms. Tasker is actually conducting a service described in subsections (3) and (4) actually conducting the service that she offers to provide. In her deposition, although not disclosing names of owners, Ms. Tasker admits she has tested up to 50 pets. In her declaration, Ms. Collier states that Ms. Tasker tested her dog's blood and saliva. The testimonials also prove that Ms. Tasker has treated animals for a variety of health issues. The Asyra manufacturer indicates that testing in done on humans rather than on animals. In her deposition, Ms. Tasker explained that when she sees an animal, the testing is performed by placing the probe in the hand of the owner, who acts as a “surrogate for delivering the animal's electromagnetic fields into the computer.
The other question related to the applicability of subsections (3) and (4) is whether Ms. Tasker is charging for her services, as the services must be “for hire.” As stated, Ms. Tasker advertises her animal testing for $115.
3. Expert Opinion Supports the Program's Allegation That Ms. Tasker Has Engaged in the Practice of Veterinary Medicine.
Exhibit 20 is a declaration by Linda Crider, DVM, stating her professional opinion that Ms. Tasker has engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine. Dr. Crider stresses that Ms. Tasker purports to treat animal health problems that commonly are treated by veterinarians, and does so through a method (EDT) that has no proven validity, thereby jeopardizing the health of animals she treats.
E. Ms. Tasker May Not Conduct Her Unlicensed Activity Under The Guise Of Conducting Biofeedback.
In her deposition, Ms. Tasker claimed that she simply uses EDT as a “biofeedback” device in order to “relax” the customer. It is true, as explained by Dr. Hall, that some EDT machines are Class II FDA-approved devices for biofeedback use. As further explained by Dr. Hall, biofeedback is a legitimate form of therapy used by many licensed health care professionals. According to Dr. Hall, the device measures “galvanic skin responses,” and the results may assist trained therapists in improving a patient's health by helping them to learn to “modify their physiological process over time.”
However, no information on Ms. Tasker's website even implies that she offers biofeedback services. More importantly, as Dr. Hall states, biofeedback simply does not remotely involve identifying “electromagnetic signatures” in order to assess a person's health and then to prescribe homeopathic medicines. What Ms. Tasker does is patently not biofeedback. Ms. Tasker's claim to be offering biofeedback is completely disingenuous. In reality, Ms. Tasker uses her galvanic skin response device in a manner not intended by the FDA when it approved the device.
In any event, Ms. Tasker lacks the qualifications and the licensure necessary to treat patients through biofeedback. Of course, simply because a device is FDA-approved for a specific purpose does not mean anyone (licensed or not) may use the device.
V. REQUEST FOR RELIEF
A. Cease And Desist Order
RCW 18.130.190(3) allows the Presiding Officer to enter a Cease and Desist Order upon a final determination that a person “has engaged or is engaging in unlicensed practice.” Based on the foregoing, the Presiding Order should enter a Cease and Desist Order based on a determination that Ms. Tasker has engaged in the unlicensed practice of medicine and veterinary medicine.
If the Presiding Officer determines to issue a Cease And Desist Order, the issue becomes identification of exactly what activity Ms. Tasker should be prohibited from doing. In considering this issue, the Program submits that the Presiding Officer should consider the King County Superior Court Kline case. As previously stated, the Department applied for an injunction against Kline. The allegations in the injunctive application show that Kline's activity closely mirrored Ms. Tasker's activity: both were using EDT to diagnose conditions and to prescribe medications. In fact, as previously pointed out, Ms. Tasker has accurately observed that she does “exactly the same thing” as Kline's employees.
In granting the Department's application for injunction, the Court imposed the strict conditions set forth in the Partial Summary Judgment Order obtained by the State in the Consumer Protection Action. The Presiding Officer should do likewise for Ms. Tasker. Below in italics is the Program's recommended language.
Joyce Tasker is prohibited from doing the following within the State of Washington, including on Indian reservation land:
1. Without obtaining a license to practice medicine under RCW 18.71:
a. Offering (through verbal or written statements, a website, flyer, or any other means) to use or using on a person any instrumentality (including any type of galvanic skin response or EDT device) in order to diagnose, treat, assess, test for or identify any human disease, ailment, injury, deformity, pain, or other condition, physical or mental, real or imagined This prohibition shall include, but not be limited to, using an instrumentality in order to identify pathogens, toxins, organ or emotional dysfunctions, “energy imbalances”, or “electromagnetic signatures” within a human body. The prohibition applies whether or not the service is offered or performed in return for compensation. (This language prohibits Ms. Tasker from conducting activity within the scope of RCW 18.71.011(1).)
b. From offering any service prohibited under Paragraph 1 in order to prescribe drugs or medicinal preparations, including, but not limited to, homeopathic remedies. This prohibition applies whether or not the medications are offered or provided in return for compensation. (While this language covers activity prohibited by Paragraph 1, it also expressly prohibits Ms. Tasker from conducting activity within the scope of RCW 18.71.011(2).)
2. Without obtaining a license to practice veterinary medicine under RCW 18.92:
a. Offering (through verbal or written statement a website, flyer, or any other means) to use on any animal any instrumentality (including any type of galvanic skin response or EDT device) in order to make known or pretend her ability or willingness to diagnose, prognose, or treat diseases, defects, wounds, or injuries of animals This prohibition shall include, but not be limited to, using an instrumentality to identify pathogens, toxins, organ or emotional dysfunctions, “energy imbalances”, or “electromagnetic signatures” within an animal's body.. This prohibition applies whether or not the service is offered in return for compensation (This language - relating strictly to offers - prohibits Ms. Tasker from conducting activity within the scope of RCW 18.92.010(1)-(2).)
b. Prescribing or administering any drug, medicine (including homeopathies), treatment, method, or practice, or perform or conduct any operation, or manipulation, or applying any apparatus or appliance (including any type of galvanic skin response or EDT device), or diagnosing or prognosing, for the cure, alleviation, correction, or modification of any animal disease, deformity, defect, wound or injury. This prohibition shall include, but not be limited to, using any method or device to identify pathogens, toxins, oral or emotional dysfunctions, “energy imbalances”, or “electronic signatures” within an animal's body. This prohibition does not apply if the service is performed without any direct or indirect compensation. (This language - relating strictly to actually providing services - prohibits Ms. Tasker from conducting activity within the scope of RCW 18.92.010(3)-(4).)
3. Otherwise engaging in any other activity which constitutes the unlicensed practice of a health care profession in violation of RCW 18.130.190.
B. Civil Penalty
In addition to entry of a Cease and Desist Order, RCW 18.130.190(3) authorizes the Presiding Officer to “impose a civil fine in an amount not exceeding one thousand dollars for each day upon which the person engaged in unlicensed practice.” Ms. Tasker became “certified” in 2001. She admits acquiring the Orion device in 2002. She has maintained a website advertising her services since at least 2003 when the Department received the complaint against her. She admits to having offered and provided services to humans and animals. Under the statute, the maximum penalty is $365,000 for each year of operation.
The Program requests a far lower fine of $10,000 against Ms. Tasker, with $3,333 suspended on condition that she timely pay $6,667 and refrain from any future unlicensed-practice violation. The Program believes that the fine should be paid within sixty (60) days, unless the Presiding Officer “for cause” allows Ms. Tasker to make installment payments over a reasonable period of time. The recommended amount of the fine is by no means too large for the following reasons:
1. Ms. Tasker engaged in the violation for a long period. Her “certificate” indicates that she started EDT in 2001.
2. The $10,000 fine is far less than allowed under law.
3. Ms. Tasker's violations were egregious, as her website made sweeping and unsupportable claims about her ability to treat humans and animals, and she specifically targeted people who were very ill.
4. Ms. Tasker in fact did treat people with very serious illnesses.
5. Ms. Tasker, as shown in JM's case, advised customers to follow her medication advice over the advice of their licensed physicians.
6. Ms. Tasker used a device that the Medical Quality Assurance Commission has found inefficacious. It hard to believe that Ms. Tasker actually believes the device, given her choice not to defend EDT on the merits and given her admission that she does not understand how it works. The fact that EDT is not a legitimate health-care device is a factor favoring imposition of a high penalty against Ms. Tasker.
7. Ms. Tasker undertook to treat ill people even though she has no health-care degree or work experience.
8. Ms. Tasker charged for her services.
9. Ms. Tasker ignored the Presiding Officer's order to produce patient records and financial records.
10. While it is not known how many customers she has tested - she refuses to say - Ms. Tasker in fact aggressively marketed her business. The evidence is that at the very least she maintained an elaborate website and distributed flyers.
11. The fine will provide a measure of just punishment and hopefully serve as a deterrent to Ms. Tasker and to other unlicensed EDT practitioners who may be operating in the state. Deterrence would not be achieved if the civil fine is so low that it is nothing more than a “slap on the wrist.”
12. It is a very serious violation of the law when an unlicensed and totally unqualified person, like Ms. Tasker, undertakes to treat seriously-ill people since sickness or death could result. Her conducts deserves a substantial fine.
Based on the foregoing, the Unlicensed Practice Program respectfully requests the Presiding Officer grant its motion for summary judgment, as material facts are not in dispute and the Program is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. What makes this case particularly appropriate for summary judgment is that factually the Program's motion relies on material from Ms. Tasker's website and on statements from her deposition. Hence, there are no material facts in dispute. As the court recognized in Kline, the issues involved in unlicensed EDT practice are susceptible to resolution on summary judgment against the practitioner.
In granting the summary judgment, the Program respectfully requests that the Presiding Officer enter the recommended Cease and Desist Order and impose the recommended fine.
DATED this _____ day of December, 2005.
Richard A. McCartan, WSBA # 8323
Assistant Attorney General
Attorneys for Department of Health
PROOF OF SERVICE
I certify that I served a copy of this document and its exhibits on all parties or their counsel of record on the date below as follows:
US Mail Postage Prepaid
JOYCE M. TASKER
2279 Marble Valley Basin Road
Colville, WA 99114-9575
I certify under penalty of perjury under the laws of the state of Washington that the foregoing is true and correct.
DATED this _____ day of December, 2005, at _________________________, WA.
Tammy G. Balliett
This page was revised on September 5, 2007.