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Censorship Government Medicine The Media

North Carolina Threatens To Shut Down Nutrition Blogger 515

Posted by timothy
from the we-haff-veys-to-maek-you-schutt-down dept.
vvaduva writes "The North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition is threatening to send a blogger to jail for recounting publicly his battle against diabetes and encouraging others to follow his lifestyle... the state diatetics and nutrition board decided [Steve] Cooksey's blog — Diabetes-Warrior.netviolated state law. The nutritional advice Cooksey provides on the site amounts to 'practicing nutrition,' the board's director says, and in North Carolina that's something you need a license to do." If applied consistently, I think this would also clear out considerable space from the average bookstore's health section. (And it could be worse; he could have been offering manicures.)
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North Carolina Threatens To Shut Down Nutrition Blogger

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  • by iamhassi (659463) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @10:56AM (#39781903) Journal
    FTFA: [carolinajournal.com]
    "After the meeting he handed out a couple of business cards pointing people to his website.

    Three days later, he got a call from the director of the nutrition board."


    once you go into the real world and hand out business cards you are operating a business, it's no longer free speech. Title is misleading.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @10:58AM (#39781935)
    Citizen, don't you know that you're incapable of doing anything without government oversight?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:00AM (#39781959)

    So handing out business cards is the definition of a business transaction? Is there some sort of a law that says you can't use business cards for personal use?

    What happened to a business transaction being the exchange of money for a service or item?

    What's next, needing a license to hand out free pamphlets?

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:01AM (#39781973) Journal

    I guess this means I should stop reading the ingredients in my food and trying to eat healthy and balanced. Don't want to be jailed for "practicing nutrition"

    He makes money on ad revenue for this advice. And also from the article:

    McCullagh said the board may be on more solid ground in its complaint about the telephone support packages Cooksey offers. “But if customers are paying $97 or $149 or $197 a month to have someone listen, that sounds a lot like life coaching, which doesn't require a license.”

    So I think the board is trying to do Crooksey a favor because here's what's going to happen. Someone is going to die after telling their family members that they've stopped seeing a regular doctor and went holistic with Crooksey when they should have had their ankle amputated. The family is going to sue Crooksey probably with a number of things like practicing nutrition without a license, etc etc. And since Crooksey is making money off this operation it's going to be hard to tell the court that was just friendly advice over tea. Crooksey isn't going to have malpractice insurance and his first amendment rights aren't going to protect him from the lawsuits that follow regarding the repercussions of his preachings.

    Crooksey should be able to say whatever he wants and put it on his blog. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be held accountable for what he says. It's wrong for the board to try and shut him down now but if I were them I would just kindly let Crooksey know that the things he is saying might leaving him with serious liabilities in due time.

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:04AM (#39782011) Journal
    "The board also directed Cooksey to remove a link offering one-on-one support, a personal-training type of service he offered for a small fee. "

    He was selling his services. Yes, he was practicing without a license. That's not blogging, that's not free speech. I can't offer one-on-one personal legal advice for a small fee because... wait for it.... i'm not an attorney.

    “But if customers are paying $97 or $149 or $197 a month to have someone listen, that sounds a lot like life coaching, which doesn't require a license.”

    Then start a life coaching website and charge for that. Just like I can't start a legal blog and charge $197 a month "to listen" and then claim "it's life coaching!"

    I'm all for free speech, but this guy with clearly trying to practice without a license and when he got busted he cried "free speech! I have a disclaimer!" Come on, this guy gives free speech a bad name.

    Advice is free. Charging for advice, now you're running a business and you should have a license.
  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:12AM (#39782139)

    No but giving nutrition advice is protected speech. Otherwise you'd not be able to make a video to tell viewers, "You really should stop eating sugar," without getting drug to court by the Carolina government for talking w/o a license. The professor who posted the youtube video "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" would now be a criminal.

  • by gnick (1211984) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:12AM (#39782145) Homepage

    So handing out business cards is the definition of a business transaction?

    No, but handing out cards advertising services that you offer in return for compensation sure makes it look like one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:14AM (#39782171)

    He makes money on ad revenue for this advice.

    *sigh*

    I don't give a shit. I really don't. I'm tired of this mentality that says that making money on ads is somehow more evil than usual because of the content on your website. Such bullshit. Either way, you're making money off of ads. It's your website.

    They might have been right to shut down the website, but not for this reason.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:24AM (#39782317) Homepage

    How about "he makes money, period." The important part is that it's a significant source of economic gain, which makes it a business. Being a business means more liability, under consumer-protection laws.

  • by trout007 (975317) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:25AM (#39782335)

    There is no difference between this and licensed doctors, engineers, lawyers, ect.

    These should all be voluntarily organizations. So if you want to see a real doctor you can find one that has AMA accreditation. But if you want to see a witch doctor, herbal specialist, or chiropractor go ahead. It's your body.

    Now if someone claims to have AMA accreditation when they don't that is committing fraud.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:27AM (#39782365)

    That doesn't make it evil, that makes it a commercial enterprise. You telling your buddy the key to diabetes is drinking 3 cans of coke a day is different than you charging for advice that says the same, or generating revenue from ad sales on your website than promotes the same.

    In one case, your friend is being an idiot for listening to you. In the other you are fraudulently presenting the information commercially. Advice of various sorts (legal, medical, apparently nutritional in north caronlina) requires you be licenced so that people are protected from businesses selling snake oil to cure diabetes.

    IANAL, so consider this in the advice to a buddy category. But if you have a business where you practice medicine, law, or nutrition in north carolina expect them to come after you eventually.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:48AM (#39782683)

    I can understand someone doing something stupid like deciding to forego certain medications (in this case Metformin, Insulin, whatever) in favor of some holistic thing, but skipping surgery based on what some random dude on a blog says? C'mon, you're flirting with argumentum ad absurdum there.

    I wish you were right, but you're wrong. People believe and follow all manner of stupid advice from the internet, strangers on buses, that guy at the health food store, everywhere. Maybe it's false hope, maybe it's a desire to be more natural, whatever it is, people take bad advice from strangers all the time. It's not just on the internet.

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:52AM (#39782737)
    "skipping surgery based on what some random dude on a blog says?"

    I believe you underestimate the strength of human stupidity. A common mistake.
  • by SirWhoopass (108232) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:54AM (#39782787)

    "I advise you not to eat at McDonalds because a homemade salad is more nutritious than a cheeseburger". Thats all it takes to be a criminal in NC.

    That is not correct. Providing nutritional information is perfectly legal in NC. Telling people about your diet is fine. Creating a diet plan for someone would be illegal. Which is what this guy was doing. Diagnosing symptoms and providing specific nutritional remedies for people with diabetes (charging $100 - $150 for this service).

    The state board provides a PDF [ncbdn.org] of what type of advice is legal, and what crosses the line. The short version would be that it is fine to provide nutritional information. It is illegal to provide nutrition care services.

  • by repapetilto (1219852) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:55AM (#39782799)

    From what I have seen of his recommendations they could easily cause hypoglycemia, a potentially fatal condition.

    Are you qualified to assess this?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:00PM (#39782895)

    Reading the comments here decrying the fact that an unlicensed person would write about nutrition is maddening.

    These license requirements are written by the same government that brought us the DMCA, the Patriot Act, and narrowly missed on SOPA. Also Vioxx, and school sponsored sugar bomb school lunches, with some whole grain. And apprently USDA inspections of student's brought lunches. It's the same. It's the same people, same motivations, same corruption, same everything.

    We know the MPAA and RIAA are self serving corps who will destroy anything and anyone to perserve their power and make another dollar. Everyone here knows that. But apparently we don't know enough about organizations like the AMA to realize that they are the same.

    They are out to protect the consumer or patient in the same way the MPAA is out to protect movie viewers. It's the same.

  • by tlhIngan (30335) <<slashdot> <at> <worf.net>> on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:23PM (#39783203)

    I can understand someone doing something stupid like deciding to forego certain medications (in this case Metformin, Insulin, whatever) in favor of some holistic thing, but skipping surgery based on what some random dude on a blog says? C'mon, you're flirting with argumentum ad absurdum there.

    Um, I'm sure the late Steve Jobs has admitted to trying to practice holistic medicine in an attempt to cure his cancer, which delayed actual surgery so by the time he had it, it was too late.

    Now, it may not be a random blog that advocated that, but I'd say that if Jobs wasn't willing to get cancer surgery for years, then it's not an absurd thought at all.

    Hell, people believe in creationism/intelligent design/"scientific controversy", Obama wasn't born in the US (still), Obama is a Muslim, etc. Even idiotic blog posts from a no-name, as long as they confirm our beliefs, will have a higher "pull" than respected articles that contradict our beliefs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:30PM (#39783337)

    From what I have seen of his recommendations they could easily cause hypoglycemia, a potentially fatal condition.

    Diabetes is a condition that requires blood tests to guage the effect of exercise, diet, and medications. That you are able to diagnose potential Hypoglycemia based on diet alone is unbelieveable. No, seriously, not believable.

  • Re:good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:35PM (#39783427) Homepage Journal

    Children are dead because some unqualified person was lying about vaccine harm,

    No, children are dead because their parents are idiots.

    People with diabetes are going to be a lot worse off because this guy is pretending to be an expert.

    From Diabetes-Warrior.net:

    I am not a doctor, dietitian nor nutritionist in fact I have no medical training of any kind.

    If you think a guy is an expert, even though he expressly states that he is not an expert, that's on your dumb ass, not him. Maybe, instead of blaming everyone else for your bad decisions, you should stop bitching and take responsibility for your own actions.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:20PM (#39785145) Homepage Journal

    Declan McCullagh doesn't understand the way the First Amendment works in this country. It doesn't protect you from prosecution if you go into a bank and say, "This is a stickup." It doesn't protect you from from prosecution if you say, "I'll sell you this drug which will cure your cancer for $1,000," when you're not a doctor and the drug doesn't cure cancer.

    Courts draw a fairly clear line between OTOH publishing a book or magazine article or having a discussion with a friend over dinner, and OTOH offering yourself to the public as an expert, giving specific advice to individuals about their specific conditions, and charging money for it. According to TFA, Steve Cooksey crossed that line. They're giving him a chance to stop, and he better take it. I'm sure he's sincere, but sincere stupid people do a lot of damage.

    Doctors have to draw the same line. When are they treating a patient, and when are they just giving general advice, as they do when they write a book, teach a class or discuss a case with a colleague in the cafeteria?

    That comes up a lot in malpractice cases. A patient can sue a doctor if they have a doctor-patient relationship, but not when the doctor was simply giving educational advice.

    A doctor is treating someone as a patient when he asks questions about the patient's specific conditions, gives specific advice, and (especially) charges money for advice.

    (Here's an article about that on Medscape, with a free but annoying signin required http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/759163?src=ptalk [medscape.com])

    It sounds like Steve Cooksey was soliciting questions about peoples' specific conditions, giving specific advice, and taking money for his advice in the treatment of diabetes. That's the practice of medicine.

    Diabetes is a medical condition. It's not like being a life coach.

    If diabetes is treated right, you're often likely to live a long, reasonably healthy life. If it's not treated right, you can die, lose a foot, go blind, and get strokes (which are sometimes worse than death). Lots of people (including children) with diabetes have died because they (or their parents) refused conventional medicine.

    That includes diet. In diabetes, diet is a serious business.

    North Carolina decided that they didn't want to let anybody without medical qualifications put up a web site and advertise that they're treating a medical condition. You can't practice medicine without a license. That's the legislature's right. We settled that at the beginning of the 20th Century. It doesn't violate the First Amendment.

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