Homeopathic "True Believer" Loses Medical License

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

In the mid-1980s, after Consumer Reports hired me to draft an article about homeopathy, I conducted a thorough investigation that included interviews with several practitioners. The most enthusiastic was 38-year-old Warren F. Metzler, M.D., who practiced what he called "constitutional homeopathy." In September 1985, during a luncheon that I had with him and about half a dozen other practitioners, he said that he was planning to treat a new patient with breast cancer without referral to another doctor for standard treatment. The other homeopaths at the table did not visibly react, but one said afterward that Metzler's (extreme) approach differed from theirs.

A few days after the lunch meeting, Metzler sent me an eleven-page brochure that he routinely distributed to patients. Called "Homeopathy: Is it the answer to my health care needs?," it explained his views and told patients what they should expect from his treatment. One passage said:

The correct homeopathic remedy will stimulate a process in you that will affect your total person and life experience. You will begin to be more creative, clear thinking, balanced emotionally and comfortable physically. As time goes by and you improve, repeat doses of the same remedy or different remedies will be required. Eventually, you will not need more remedies, will be free of any chronic ailments and will only occasionally have acute ailments, such as colds or flus. The time required for this transformation of you is typically three to five years.

“Constitutional homeopathy” is based on the notion that each single remedy has a set of traits and that healing will take place when these traits correspond with the clients personality traits and/or symptoms. To determine the appropriate remedy, the homeopath takes a detailed history that Metzler's brochure describes this way:

The information I need concerns all of you. It entails your physical sensations, emotional sensations, mental sensations, and how you react to food, sleep, sex, and menstruation. It also includes your attitudes about the world around you, your work, your relationships and a history of your previous ailments and emotional traumas. . . .

A few months ago, while going through my files on homeopathy, I recalled my encounter with Metzler and wondered whether I could find information about him on the Internet. I found that he had written a book about his life which said that during his third year of medical school it "became obvious" to him that "orthodox medicine never reversed illness, but merely—at best—slowed down the degenerative process." He searched for an alternative, the book said, and wound up orienting himself to practicing it as soon as his medical training was complete [1].

I also learned that Metzler's medical licenses had been revoked. In 1992, the New York State Board of Professional Medical Conduct charged him with mismanaging the care of four patients, one of whom died. All four had symptoms of serious diseases that required medical treatment and/or referral [2]. Metzler testified that he used homeopathic remedies to "treat the entire person" rather than treating diseases. He also testified that illness is the result of a restricted spirit, there is no such thing as an incurable illness, and that it was not necessary to do standard diagnostic testing or repeated physical examinations. The board sustained charges of gross negligence, negligence on more than one occasion, and failure to maintain records [3]. Metzler requested an administrative review in which he asserted that practicing a field of medicine that differs from the weight of medical authority does not constitute negligence. The review board noted that there are no different standards for licensed physicians based on their philosophy, religion, or personal approach to their calling [4]. Metzler petitioned through the courts, but in April 1994, his appeal was denied [5].

In 1992, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners launched an investigation of Metzler that included a visit by an undercover consumer investigator who complained of rectal bleeding. The investigator reported that Metzler conducted a brief physical examination, ordered no laboratory tests, and gave her a packet of powder that he described as a homeopathic remedy made from ground oyster shells. Following hearings, the board concluded that Metzler did not meet minimum medical standards and revoked his license. A local newspaper reported that Metzler said he would continue practicing because he had "a calling to act in a manner that will cause me to disregard their authority." [6-8]

In a recent article, Metzler said that he continued to offer his services without a medical license, but found that over time, fewer and fewer people sought them. So he joined forces with a friend in California to write and produce a movie—"The Empiricist"—based on their mutual belief that the genetic theory of inheritance is false [9,10].

Although homeopathic products are fakes [11], state licensing boards rarely discipline (or attempt to discipline) homeopaths who provide standard medical care and/or mare referrals when needed. Metzler stood out because his avoidance of medical care placed patients at high risk.

References

  1. Metzler WF. Finding Contentment: A Journey to Self-Discovery. Serious Ladies Publishing Company, 1986, pp 70-71.
  2. Statement of charges. In the matter of Warren Metzler, M.D. New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct, March 5, 1992.
  3. Determination and order. In the matter of Warren Metzler, M.D. New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct, Order No. BPMC-92-66, Aug 12, 1992.
  4. Administrative Review Board Determination and Order. In the matter of Warren Metzler, M.D. New York State Administrative Review Board for Professional Medical Conduct, Order No. BPMC-92-66-A, Oct 29, 1992.
  5. Peters J. Memorandum and judgment. In the matter of Warren F. Metzler v. New York State Board for Professional Conduct et al. New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, April 7, 1994.
  6. Edelman S. Hackensack doctor's license pulled. Bergen Record, Jan 1, 1993.
  7. Edelman S. Homeopath's license suspension is extended. Homeopath's license suspension is extended. Bergen Record, Jan 15, 1993.
  8. Edelman S. Suspended homeopath vows to defy state board. Bergen Record, Jan 16, 1993.
  9. Warren Metzler. Phosphorous Alights Web site, accessed Jan 8, 2009.
  10. The history of Phosphorus Alights. Phosphorous Alights Web site, accessed Jan 8, 2009.
  11. Barrett S. Homeopathy: The ultimate fake. Quackwatch, Oct 4, 2007.

This article was posted on February 1, 2009.

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