Chapter Four: Preparing for Battle
To the best of my knowledge, there was no law in the State of Ohio which would prevent me from using Laetrile. I had checked with several attorney friends. I had asked them to see what the law was. They reported that there were no laws in the State of Ohio regarding the use of Laetrile.
I called the Ohio State Medical Association. A woman answered the phone. Our conversation went something like this:
"I would like to know the present legal status of Laetrile in Ohio."
"Laetrile is illegal," I was told.
"If Laetrile is illegal, there must be some statute which says it is illegal. Would you please give me that statute number so that my attorney can look it up for me."
"Laetrile is illegal," I was told again.
"Yes, I understand that, but what is the statute number that makes it illegal?"
"Laetrile is illegal," I was told for the third time.
"You have told me that three times now, but you have not given me the precise law that makes it illegal."
"Well, it is not approved by the FDA," was the reply this time.
"Does that make it illegal?"
"Why, then, did you tell me three times that it was illegal?"
"Because that was what I was told to say if anyone inquired about Laetrile," was her reply.
You can imagine my surprise (shock would be more like it) when, in the Fall of 1976, I received a certified letter from the Medical Board of the State of Ohio requiring me to appear, two weeks hence, before that Board for a hearing because I was using Laetrile. The first thing I did was call The Committee for Freedom of Choice in California. I do not remember with whom I spoke, but it was probably Bob Bradford. The advice I was given was to contact an attorney by the name of Mr. George Kell.
Mr. Kell was the attorney who defended Dr. John Richardson in his long and difficult legal battles with the State of California over the use of nutritional therapy and Laetrile. The story of Dr. John Richardson, and his fight for the rights of his patients to choose the type of treatment they wanted, became a best-selling book entitled Laetrile Case Histories1. In my opinion, Dr. John Richardson is one the great heroes of medicine.
Because of his work with Dr. Richardson, George Kell was probably the most knowledgeable attorney in the country at that time on the subject of nutrition and Laetrile. I called Mr. Kell and we talked at some length. He told me some things that I should do and some things not to do. He told me a number of things that my attorney should and should not do. Finally he said, "The best thing to do is for me to be there."
Among other things, Mr. Kell had recommended that, in the two weeks time that we had, we contact as many of my patients as possible and ask these patients to write to the State Medical Board on my behalf. For the next five days and nights we did exactly that. I had two telephone lines coming into my office. My office girl, Ruthie Coe, (without additional pay, bless her heart) and I would return to my office every night and make telephone calls until about 10:00 P.M. Meanwhile, Betty, having a list of her own, was making calls from our home. The response was overwhelming! I do not know how many letters actually went into the State Medical Board. I do know that there were some forty or fifty patients who were kind enough to send me copies of the letters they had written. The ground work, as directed by Mr. Kell, had been laid.
The hearing was scheduled for a Thursday morning. George Kell arrived at the Columbus, Ohio airport about 10:30 P.M. the night before. Until the wee hours of the morning we stayed up and discussed strategy. Mr. Kell explained to me that he would attempt to make the Medical Board angry at him, thus taking their anger away from me.
During the hearing, Mr. Kell was extremely successful in doing just that. On at least four occasions he said to the members of the Board, "If you decide to take this matter to court, you will have me to deal with." As things turned out, it became obvious that the Medical Board of the State of Ohio did not wish to deal with Mr. George Kell. For his wonderful performance, I am eternally grateful to him.
For those who are wondering how much it cost to bring in an attorney from California to defend me, let me say that Mr. Kell's charge was extremely reasonable. He charged me only for his air fare (coach, of course) and for his time before the Medical Board. This came to about $700. There are still some people on this earth to whom principle is more important than money. George Kell is one of those people.
Several months went by before I heard anything from the State Medical Board. Then, an Enforcement Officer of the Board, as he called himself, appeared in my office without an appointment and insisted that I see him immediately. As soon as I finished with the patient at hand, I did see him. He wanted to know if I was still using Laetrile. I assured him that I was. He told me that the Medical Board wanted to take away my medical license. I told him I knew that, but, in order for them to do so, they would have to go through the courts. I told him I would insist on a jury trial, and that I would parade before the jury all of the patients who had written letters to the Medical Board. He said, "Oh, no, no, no! We don't want to get involved in anything like that." I assured him that was exactly what the Board would become involved in, and that they would again be confronted by Mr. George Kell.
At this point he backed down. We discussed a few irrelevant things. Then he said, "I just want you to know that the State Medical Board is not happy with what you are doing." I said to the Enforcement Officer, "I was not placed on this earth to please the State Medical Board. I was placed on this earth to please God. I know that the nutritional program I am using adds far more to the quality and quantity of life of the cancer patient than anything offered by orthodox medicine. Therefore, I am obligated to God to do what I know to be right. Whether the State Medical Board agrees or disagrees is not important. It is important only that I do what pleases God, because, at my death, I will be judged by God and not by the State Medical Board."
Except for a letter in 1978, that was the last that I heard from the Medical Board of the State of Ohio for fourteen years (until 1990). I'll tell you about that later.
1See Laetrile Case Histories; The Richardson Cancer Clinic Experience, by John A. Richardson, M.D., and Patricia Griffin, R.N., B.S. Originally published by American Media and later by Bantam. The book is currently out of print.