State reps listen to testimonials on freedom of choice

By Jennifer Lassiter
Star Staff

   JOHNSON CITY -- State representatives of the Tennessee House Professional Occupations Subcommittee met yesterday for a two-day meeting to hear a testimony on alternative medicine at The Center for Integrative Medicine at the historic Oaks Castle.
   Dr. Robert Allen, medical director at the center, began the discussion on Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative Medicine (CAM). Alternative medicine is not widely taught in medical schools, and has been posing problems for Tennesseans and their freedom to choose and access various healing systems.
   Dr. Joseph Holliday, a heart expert, told the subcommittee he was once skeptical about alternative medicine and considered himself a conservative, but he now practices Chelation (pronounced key-lay-shun), on his patients. Chelation is a chemical reaction that results in a bond being formed between metal ion and an organic molecule. This form of alternative medicine has been used to reduce the amount of plaque in arteries and significantly improve the flow of blood to the heart.
   Holliday has performed by-pass surgeries and various other surgeries centered around the heart and lungs. His practice changed when two of his patients refused by-pass surgery. He couldn't understand and later those patients came back to tell him about an alternative method of healing that saved their lives. He began to research Chelation and decided to start using this alternative form of medicine.
   Holliday, years later, received a certified letter from the Tennessee Licensing Board stating that physicians who practice Chelation could potentially lose their license because Chelation is potentially harmful.
   "After 6,250 signatures and 600 testimonials the board elected to back-off their position in 2000," said Holliday. In January of this year, the Board of Medical Examiners began their attack again.
   Holliday said, " I love Tennessee; I want to stay here and treat patients. We need to keep patients here; some don't have the choice to leave the state to receive treatment in Georgia or North Carolina."
   Rep. Gary Odom, chair of the subcommittee, made a statement to clarify the subcommittee's role. He said, "Their is no statutory regulation on Chelation; this is something that the Medical Board of Examiners has decided."
   Rep. Odom also said that to get an adequate account of the story, they would need to meet with the Board of Medical Examiners, who were invited to yesterday's session along with the Tennessee Medical Association, both of whom did not attend the meeting.
   Several patients who received Chelation treatments described their life-saving experiences. According to W.C. Roe, Allen saved his life twice. He had two open heart surgeries and began Chelation in Banner Elk, N.C. and continues with his treatments in Johnson City.
   "I feel great to this day. Gentlemen, I can't understand why we can't have the freedom to take what we feel and our doctors recommend."
   In closing statements, Allen said, "This is not about Chelation; it's about the freedom of choice and protecting patients' freedom of choice."
   The purpose of yesterday's session of the meeting was to inform and define the terms as described by various physicians and the posing problem for patients in Tennessee. The overall theme of alternative medicine was described during the meeting as being based on more than just "Newtonian physics" and as centering around the body, mind and spirit of healing. "CAM reunites the body and is rarely a single cause and effect," said Allen.
   Tomorrow the meeting will follow-up on selected CAM therapies, with an overview of the legislative action in other states and the future of alternative medicine.
   See Sunday's edition of The Elizabethton Star for a story about the second day of the CAM meeting.