My 1986 Visit to the Nevada Clinic
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
A few physicians who consider themselves homeopaths use "electrodiagnostic" devices to help select the remedies they prescribe. A leading proponent of this method in the United States is Fleming Fuller Royal, M.D., owner and medical director of The Nevada Clinic, Las Vegas, Nevada. Dr. Royal is a member of Nevada's homeopathic licensing board and was its president from 1983 to 1985 and is currently its secretary-treasurer. These devices do not make legitimate diagnoses, but Royal helped persuade the Nevada legislature to legalize their use within the state.
In 1986, when I was preparing an article on homeopathy for Consumer Reports magazine, Royal invited me to visit his clinic as a patient. The following account of my visit was published in Nutrition Forum Newsletter in January 1987. Although this report may not sound critical, I do not trust what Royal does and would never recommend using his services. As far as I know, he has never published a scientific report demonstrating that he helps patients.
On March 1, 2002, I noticed that the clinic was using and marketing the Quantron Resonance System (QRS), a device that it claims is effective against a long list of diseases and conditions. These claims are false. Since the device lacks FDA approval for its intended purpose, marketing it in interstate commerce is a federal crime.
Nevada Clinic publications state that electrodiagnosis is one of the most effective aids for diagnosing illness and that "there are no incurable diseases, only ignorant physicians." The initial clinic visit—which spans a two-day period--commonly costs $700 to $800, including $165 for allergy testing and $100 for homeopathic remedies. The program also includes lectures on nutrition and allergies.
The clinic is located in a small shopping center near the outskirts of Las Vegas. It has 10,000 feet of floor space with more than 40 rooms. The spacious waiting room is tastefully decorated and seats 18 people. Most staff members wear white uniforms with royal blue jackets. There are four physicians, each of whom sees about 70 patients during a 4-day work week. Patients are typically asked to return three times during the six months after their first visit and annually thereafter. Most learn of the clinic through word-of-mouth or ads in homeopathic or health food publications. After making an appointment, they are sent medical history forms to complete.
Upon arrival at the clinic, patients are given a name tag and asked to sign an insurance form and a consent form which acknowledges that the clinic specializes in electrodiagnosis, uses homeopathic methods, has made no guarantees, and will not function as their primary physician for routine examinations or other necessary treatment.
After signing the forms, patients receive a 71-page Patient's Handbook and are shown a 20-minute videotape, both of which introduce the staff and explain the clinic's methods. Then they are escorted to the various rooms where examinations and educational programs are carried out. They are weighed, blood pressure is taken by a nurse, and specimens of urine and blood are taken for laboratory analysis. Since overnight fasting is required for some of the blood chemistry tests, a snack of juice, nuts and rice cakes is provided after the blood is drawn. (Some clinic "veterans" bring their own snacks.)
All patients at The Nevada Clinic are diagnosed with a computerized galvanometer called the INTERRO. This is said to measure changes in the skin's electrical resistance which indicate whether the body's organ systems have proper "electromagnetic energy balance."
To use the device, the doctor probes "acupuncture points" on the patient's hands and feet and interprets numbers on the computer's screen. (The less the electrical resistance, the higher the score.) One wire from the computer goes to a brass cylinder covered by moist gauze which the patient holds in one hand. A second wire is connected to a probe which the doctor touches to the patient's other hand or foot. When he does so, it completes a low-voltage circuit and causes a band to rise from 20 to up to 100 on a scale on the computer screen. Readings over 60 are said to represent "inflammation," readings of 48 to 60 are normal, and readings below 48 represent "degeneration," which may signify cancer or atherosclerosis. The device makes a whining noise resembling that of an electrical motor; the higher the number, the louder the noise.
The INTERRO is programmed so that charts and tables can be placed on the screen to help the doctor select from approximately 1,700 homeopathic remedies. By selecting certain remedies and retesting with the probe, the doctor determines which remedies will balance the disturbed energy flow in the patient's body. (According to the Patient's Handbook, "the magnetic blueprint of the homeopathic remedy flows through the body via the electrical current and resonates in harmony with the body, returning an abnormal reading to normal.") One or more remedies may be placed in a tray attached to the computer to receive an energy transfer.
The INTERRO and another device are used to diagnose allergies. During the latter procedure, vials of common allergy-causing substances are placed in the tray so they become part of the circuit.
Mercury dental fillings are probed with another electrodiagnostic device said to measure negative electrical potentials, which, if too great, indicate that toxic amounts of mercury or other metals may spread to surrounding tissues and cause eventual damage to nearby nerves.
Some patients are tested by the clinic nutritionist with a device in which vitamins, minerals and enzymes are placed in a tray connected to a meter that supposedly indicates whether the patient needs them.
In October 1986, at Dr. Royal's invitation, I underwent all of the electrodiagnostic tests except for vitamin testing. After testing me on the INTERRO, he said I had a number of electromagnetic blockages and had "temporomandibular joint stress, probable subclinical allergies, and possible mild early preclinical arthritis."
After determining what he thought was the most appropriate remedy, he placed a vial of vitamin B12 in the tray and "transferred an electromagnetic blueprint" to it. He explained that it was desirable to overcome "energy blocks" caused by the scars in my skin. Since the energy travels mainly through acupuncture meridians on the surface of the skin, he wanted to remove the blockage by injecting the specially prepared B12 into the points of blockage: my appendectomy scar, the areas inside my throat from which my tonsils had been removed, the skin near my jaw joints, and my vaccination scar. After doing this, he retested and said that most of the blocks were gone, but my jaw showed considerable tension and should be manipulated. After doing that, he prescribed five homeopathic remedies for home use and advised me to have my dentist replace one of my mercury amalgam fillings with another material.
During the testing, I noticed that the harder the probe was pressed to my finger or toe, the higher the reading on the INTERRO screen. Royal readily acknowledged this, but said, "that's why it takes a lot of training to use the equipment properly."
The manufacturer's literature states that if the INTERRO is used for medical diagnosis in the United States, it must bear the label "FOR INVESTIGATION USE ONLY. The performance characteristics of this product have not been established" and that diagnosis must be confirmed with an accepted medical procedure. But Royal told me that no such label was needed.
A sign in the clinic pharmacy warns that homeopathic remedies should be kept away from electrical outlets and appliances and should not be x-rayed at airport entries. The reason for this is that "remedies posess electromagnetic fields [that] become distorted and unpredictable when strongly affected by other magnetic fields."
The nutrition lecture was conducted by a woman who said she had taken correspondence courses through Donsbach University (an unaccredited school) and the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. Her main advice was to eat less meat and more fresh fruits, vegetables and other unprocessed foods. She recommended installation of a home water purifier. She also said that aluminum pots can cause Alzheimer's disease, that milk (other than goat's milk) is not good for adults, that microwave cooking "zaps the life force" and changes the molecular structure of foods, and that sunshine beneficially stimulates the pituitary gland.
Royal calls his approach "bioenergetic medicine" and says it is the wave of the future. He was introduced to it by Floyd Weston, a former insurance executive who had investigated its use in Germany. (According to a 1981 article in the National Health Federation's Public Scrutiny, Weston learned about electrodiagnosis after organizing a group of businessmen "to conduct a worldwide search for the answer to good health.")
When Weston approached him, Royal was practicing medicine in Oregon and felt that the medical climate would be hostile toward electrodiagnosis. So Weston investigated the situation in Nevada and reported that influential persons were interested in having another type of tourist industry besides gambling and had promised him that Royal would not be bothered there by medical authorities.
In 1979, before Royal could relocate, Oregon's board of medical examiners became concerned about his use of electrodiagnosis and ordered him to take written and oral competency examinations. He passed the written examination, and since he had been planning to move anyway, it was agreed that the oral exam would be dropped and his Oregon license classified as inactive. The Governor of Nevada subsequently appointed Royal to a homeopathic advisory board, and a homeopathic licensing law was passed which included "noninvasive electrodiagnosis" as part of the definition of homeopathy. So this practice is now legal in Nevada.
The Nevada Clinic of Preventive Medicine opened in 1980, but in 1983 its name was shortened because insurance companies would not honor claims from a "preventive medicine" clinic. ("With the name change," the clinic newsletter notes, "more patients' insurance claims are being paid.") Royal originally directed the clinic's medical aspects and Weston directed its business aspects, but in 1983 they parted company, and in 1984, Royal became sole owner and operator.
Royal struck me as an extremely sincere person who believes in what he is doing and wants very much to help those who consult him. His clinic set-up radiates caring and concern. The atmosphere is unhurried, and the staff is friendly, efficient and energetic. Everything is explained in detail, an aspect of treatment missing from many medical practices. From a marketing standpoint, the clinic set-up is outstanding.
So far, 16,000 patients have been seen at The Nevada Clinic. Royal said he plans to double the clinic's size, to add a mini-kitchen and physical therapy department, and to computerize all patient records so that statistical reports will be easy to compile.
Do Royal's methods actually help people? It would be easy to suggest that since electrodiagnosis and homeopathy are outside the realm of accepted medical practice, such treatment is worthless. But Royal says that most of his patients suffer from headaches and/or allergies. These conditions often have an emotional component that can be influenced by a positive doctor-patient interaction—which most patients who trust The Nevada Clinic are likely to have.
Does the clinic lure people away from effective treatment? My single visit could not determine this, but several patients told me they had not been helped by their previous doctors. Royal said he does not accept cancer patients because "if they get better, physicians will say it was a spontaneous remission or that the patient did not have cancer at all; and if they die, I'll get blamed. It's a no-win situation."
Royal said he does not want to treat severe neurological disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ("Lou Gehrig's disease") or the late stages of multiple sclerosis. Nor does he wish to treat illnesses severe enough to require hospital care or surgery. Regarding medications prescribed by other doctors, he said, "All medications are to be continued until improvement is noted by the referring doctor and/or the patient. We advise patients to follow the advice of their personal physician and to give us progress reports at specific times."
It would be fascinating to conduct a well designed study to measure what Royal is actually accomplishing. He seems open and self-confident enough to cooperate with such a study if an appropriate person or agency were interested in carrying it out.
This article was posted on July 22, 2004.