Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
In his years in Santa Fe, Dr. Kenneth Stoller didn’t shy away from publicly blaming vaccines for autism, condemning aspartame sweetener or writing a memoir of his 16-year-old deceased son he believed was communicating with him from the afterlife.
Now, the pediatrician is embroiled in a different sort of controversy – one that could affect his license to practice medicine.
Stoller is accused of using an alternative medical treatment – hyperbaric oxygen therapy – and prescribing dangerous drugs to treat a child for medical conditions that didn’t exist.
The New Mexico Medical Board alleges there is “sufficient evidence” to believe that Stoller over a three-year period treated the child “repeatedly, unnecessarily and injudiciously,” and enabled the child’s mother to engage in “medical child abuse.”
The allegations stem from an investigation by the board and, if proven, could lead to sanctions or other disciplinary action against Stoller.
A board hearing to allow Stoller to respond to the allegations isn’t expected until early next year. His attorney, Kate Ferlic of Santa Fe, said the board complaint against Stoller is unfounded and appears to have larger dimensions. “This prosecution does not seem to be about the individual doctor, but a war on hyperbaric oxygen therapy and its merits,” she told the Journal.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, the oxygen therapy is a well-established treatment for decompression sickness, a hazard of scuba diving, and for wounds that won’t heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury. The therapy involves placing the patient in a pressurized room or tube to breathe pure oxygen under greater-than-normal pressure.
But Stoller and others outside the medical mainstream have used the therapy for a variety of other diseases and conditions, such as autism, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
The FDA last year issued a consumer update warning that the oxygen therapy hasn’t been clinically proven to cure or be effective for such diseases and conditions.
As the medical director of the Santa Fe-based Hyperbaric Medical Center of New Mexico, Stoller had a hyperbaric chamber installed in his office in 2002. “When I tell people all the things it can help, they look at me like I’m a snake oil salesman,” Stoller told the Journal in a 2002 interview.
In an interview last year posted on YouTube, Stoller said he believed the oxygen therapy would eventually become the standardized treatment for treating cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome and traumatic brain injury.
The Medical Board’s investigation is confidential, as is the investigation into the child abuse matter by the state Children, Youth and Families Department.
But the board’s notice of contemplated action alleges that Stoller’s treatment occurred at various times between 2009 and 2012.
The child’s mother was subsequently found by the state of New Mexico to have abused and/or neglected her child by fabricating medical conditions for the child and providing the child with inadequate nutrition, the board notice states. “Such medical child abuse occurred during the entire time that you provided the medical treatment described … .” states a notice sent to Stoller.
The treatment “perpetuated the medical child abuse … placed the child at unnecessary risk of harm, and furthermore reflects (Stoller’s) grossly negligent failure to recognize and address the medical threats facing the minor child while entrusted to your care,” the notice added.
Ferlic said the patient, a girl now 7 years old, was never harmed and the mother was never charged criminally.
Citing federal patient privacy rules, Ferlic declined to say what medical issue led to Stoller treating the child.
The medical board investigation was prompted by a complaint from a physician at University of New Mexico Hospital, Ferlic said.
The UNMH doctor and Stoller had a disagreement at a CYFD hearing related to the medical child abuse accusations against the mother, Ferlic said.
“He (Stoller) disagreed with her methodology,” Ferlic said of the UNMH physician. “We believe this (complaint to the board) is in retaliation for Dr. Stoller taking a different position.”
The physician complained to the board about Stoller just after the CYFD hearing, she said.
The issue at the time involved the mother and whether she had what is known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, Ferlic said. According to the National Institutes of Health, the syndrome is a mental illness and a form of child abuse. The caretaker of a child, usually a mother, either makes up fake symptoms or causes real symptoms to make it look like the child is sick, the NIH website states.
Ferlic said there was no consensus among the medical experts who testified at the CYFD hearing whether the mother actually suffered from the syndrome. The board’s complaint seems to “be saying that Dr. Stoller should have diagnosed the mother with that … but it was the child who was his patient,” she said.
He’s also accused of making a false or misleading statement “regarding the efficacy or the value of a medical treatment or remedy prescribed or administered by the licensee.”
Stoller is taking the board’s allegations seriously, Ferlic said, and hopes to clear himself at a hearing in what she described as a “very unusual case.”
The board also contends the pediatrician has fudged his medical credentials.
Stoller, in his testimony in the CYFD child abuse hearing, allegedly made several false statements regarding his professional qualifications, the board notice states.
Through a website, Stoller publicly claimed to be a diplomat of the American Board of Pediatrics, “despite a lack of current certification in that specialized field,” the notice states.
Medical Board records show Stoller has been licensed in New Mexico since 1997 and graduated from the American University of the Caribbean in 1982. Stoller, in various articles on the Internet, has also stated he graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in California.
He has several videos on YouTube explaining his belief about the harm of vaccinations.
After unsuccessfully lobbying New Mexico state officials to ban the artificial sweetener aspartame in the mid-2000s, Stoller this year took his fight to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In October, the FDA rejected his citizen’s petition seeking the ban.
Stoller in 2011 penned a book, “My Life After Life: A Posthumous Memoir,” listing his son Galen Stoller as the author and himself as the editor.
The younger Stoller was 16 years old when he was killed after his car was struck by a train near Rowe, N.M.
According to the description on Amazon.com, Stoller’s book “confronts timeless questions concerning what happens to our loved ones and ourselves after death.”
Following the second anniversary of his passing in 2007, the Amazon website states, Galen “asked his father to write this book.”
Stoller informed the board in September that he no longer has an office in New Mexico, but still resides in Santa Fe.
Stoller until recently worked for the Amen Clinic in San Francisco. The chain of clinics, whose motto is “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” was founded by popular psychiatrist Daniel Amen.
Amen has made headlines and appeared on PBS television touting a type of brain imaging to help treat a variety of medical conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.