High Damage Award in Chelation Case
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
A Montana jury has awarded $501,007.68 to the widow and the estate of John Sisson, who died of a heart attack at age 52. The complaint (shown below) states:
- Sisson, a psychologist, had suffered from asthma most of his adult life. After trying standard medical options, he consulted naturopath Mathew Schlechten for treatment.
- During the first visit, Sisson mentioned "occasional heart pain" and a family history of heart disease. Schlechten concluded that the pain was caused by angina, but instead of recognizing the seriousness of the symptoms and referring Sisson for medical care, he treated him with intravenous EDTA chelation therapy over a 3-month period.
- Eight months after his last visit to Schlechten, Sisson died from a massive heart attack.
- The autopsy showed widespread coronary atherosclerosis and blockage of the main artery to the heart as the fatal event.
Before the trial took place, the Montana Alternative Health Care Board ruled that Schlechten was negligent in failing to refer Sisson but was not responsible for his death. The jury reached the same conclusion. It awarded Sisson's widow $982,368 for loss of income, loss of consortium, emotional distress, and pain and suffering, but designated only 51% of this amount as Schlechten's share of the responsibility.
Chelation therapy has no proven value or plausible rationale for treating coronary artery disease. In 1998, the FTC secured a consent agreement barring the American College for Advancement in Medicine (the leading organization for chelationists) from making unsubstantiated advertising claims that chelation therapy is effective against any disease of the circulatory system. During the trial, a defense witness who was an ACAM member had to admit during cross-examination that the testimony she had supplied about chelation therapy during direct examination would be considered false and misleading by the FTC.
MONTANA TWENTY-FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, RAVALLI COUNTY
ALETA SISSON, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of JOHN SISSON, deceased,
DR. MATHEW SCHLECHTEN,
Dept. No. 1
Cause No. DV-08-164
COMPLAINT AND DEMAND
COMES NOW the Plaintiff, Aleta Sisson, by and through counsel, and alleges as follows:
1. Plaintiff Aleta Sisson is a resident of Corvallis, Montana, and is the widow and Personal Representative of the Estate of the decedent, Dr. John Sisson ("John").
2. The above-named individual Defendant, Dr. Mathew Schlechten ("Defendant") is a resident of Hamilton, Montana.
3. Defendant practices naturopathic medicine, with his principal place of business in Hamilton, Montana, and is licensed as a naturopathic physician by the State of Montana.
4. Jurisdiction for this action is proper.
FACTS COMMON TO ALL COUNTS
5. John Sisson died on October 15, 2006 at age 52.
6. Coroner, Dr. Gary Dale, determined that the cause of death was a myocardial infarction.
7. John was "treated" by Defendant within the eleven months prior to his death for his asthma condition.
8. John's first visit with Defendant was on November 11, 2005.
9. During the November 11, 2005 visit, Defendant noted a history of "occasional tightness in the chest;" "occasional heart pain," and "family history of heart disease," and Defendant's records of that visit state "address angina with chelation."
10. John's second visit with Defendant was on November 18, 2005.
11. Defendant's notes taken during that visit state "last night [John] woke up with angina pretty bad."
12. During November and December 2005, Defendant administered intravenous EDTA chelation and "chemical detox" treatments to John several times.
13. Defendant never referred John to a medical doctor for a cardiac work up or assessment.
14. Defendant "treated" John eight times from November 2005 through February 2006.
15. John died eight months after his last visit to Defendant.
16. Autopsy revealed widespread coronary artery atherosclerosis, with a thrombotic occlusion of the LAD as the fatal event.
17. Plaintiff re-states and re-alleges the allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 16, inclusive.
18. Between November 2005 and February 2006, Defendant had a duty to either recommend or refer John to a medical doctor for a cardiac work-up or assessment.
19. Because Defendant never recommended or referred John to a medical doctor for a cardiac work-up or assessment, Defendant breached his duty as John's medical provider.
20. Defendant's breach of duty caused John's death.
21. Plaintiff Aleta Sisson has suffered damages by Defendant's breach of duty, in an amount to be determined at trial.
22. Plaintiff re-states and re-alleges the allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 21, inclusive.
23. Defendant was employed by John as a naturopathic physician to treat his asthma condition.
24. Defendant is a health care provider for CHIP (Children's Health Insurance) of the State of Montana.
25. As a provider of CHIP services, Defendant is required to carry professional liability insurance as part of his contract.
26. Defendant is a provider of health care services who receives reimbursement through the State of Montana, but he does not carry liability insurance as required.
27. Defendant's failure to carry professional liability insurance is a breach of the general duty of care to his patients, and amounts to professional malpractice.
28. Between November 2005 and February 2006 Defendant represented himself to be competent to perform and render appropriate care and treatment to John.
29. Between November 2005 and February 2006 Defendant rendered naturopathic services to John and examined and undertook naturopathic care to John at his facility in Hamilton, Montana.
30. Defendant carelessly and negligently failed to care for John while he was under Defendant's care, because he failed to observe standards of care, policies, procedures, and protocols relevant to naturopathic treatment by failing to recognize the seriousness of John's condition, and by failing to refer John to the care of a medical doctor when John's condition exceeded defendant's ability to treat him.
31. Because of Defendant's acts and omissions, John lost his chance to make a recovery, suffered injuries, and died.
32. Defendant's professional malpractice and negligence was the proximate and foreseeable cause of John's injuries and subsequent death.
33. As a proximate result of Defendant's professional malpractice, Plaintiff Aleta Sisson has suffered damages in amounts to be determined at trial.
34. Plaintiff re-alleges and re-states each of the allegations contained in Paragraphs 1 through 36, inclusive.
35. John's injuries and ultimate death were caused, in whole or in part, by Defendant's acts and omissions.
36. John left his wife and two children as heirs to his estate.
37. As a result of Defendant's acts and omissions, he is liable for John's personal injuries and for the medical care necessary to treat his injuries, for pain and suffering, grief and sorrow, and for loss of care and counsel resulting from John's death.
38. Plaintiff Aleta Sisson and the Estate of John Sisson have suffered damages resulting from Defendant's acts and omission in an amount to be determined at trial.
39. Plaintiff re-alleges and re-states each of the allegations contained in Paragraphs 1 through 41, inclusive.
40. John succumbed to pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other damages, in the interim between his injury and his ultimate death as a result of Defendant's acts and omissions in amounts to be determined at trial.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE Plaintiff prays for relief and as follows:
1. Damages as permitted by law and determined by the fact finder;
2. For pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment of life;
3. Damages resulting from effects on Plaintiff's health and well being;
4. For an award of costs of suit and reasonable attorney's fees; and,
5. For such other and further relief as this Court deems just.
DATED this 14th day of March, 2008.
MILO DRAGOVICH, DALE,
STEINBRENNER & NYGREN, P.C.
P.O. Box 4947
Missoula, MT 59806-4947
Telephone: (406) 728-1455
Fax: (406) 549-7077
Attorneys for Plaintiff
Christian T. Nygren
This page was posted on April 7, 2010.