A man who reportedly advertised cures for cancer, AIDS and peanut allergies has been arrested on suspicion of pretending to be a medical doctor, the Orange County district attorney's office said.
Daryn Wayne Peterson, 37, was charged with unauthorized practice of medicine, operating a healthcare service without a license, treating cancer without a license, offering an unapproved drug for cancer treatment and misrepresenting himself as a licensed medical practitioner.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, October 15, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 55 words Type of Material: Correction
Diseases: An article in the Sept. 26 Section A about an Orange County man arrested on suspicion of pretending to be a medical doctor quoted the suspect's website as saying he had a specialty in latrogenic diseases. Actually, the term on the website was "iatrogenic diseases," which are diseases inadvertently induced by a doctor's treatment.
The charges, according to prosecutors, stem from an Orange County Register newspaper article that profiled Peterson and those who sought treatment from him. In the course of the district attorney's probe, an undercover investigator was sent to Peterson to pose as a cancer patient scared of chemotherapy.
Authorities alleged that Peterson met with the undercover investigator at his Mira Loma apartment and told him that chemotherapy would kill him faster than cancer. The district attorney's office alleged that Peterson gave the investigator a medical exam and told him that he could "expect almost complete reversal" of his cancer within a year of taking Peterson's vitamins and supplements.
The district attorney's office also says Peterson ran a website, www.naturalhealth coverage.com, in which the "your doctors" section features Daryn Peterson and says he has a "Ph.D., HMD," with a specialty of "internal medicine, natural medicine, toxicology, immunology and latrogenic diseases." A catchphrase is listed: "No Disease is Incurable."
Peterson, who was arrested Thursday, has been released on $20,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 22 in Orange County Superior Court.
When asked to comment about the district attorney's accusations, Peterson sent a text message to The Times, which accused the Register article of being inaccurate without elaborating. He also wrote: "All I have ever done is help people feel better by selling supplements made from food and nothing else. There are many out there who sell vitamins that help people."
Peterson is not licensed by the Medical Board of California, the state agency that licenses medical doctors.
In a statement, the Orange County district attorney's office said it launched an investigation because it was "alarmed by the potential health risks to the community and the recklessness of the article" profiling Peterson.
The Register article published June 10 quoted Peterson as saying that the vitamins and supplements he sold offered cures to chronic or fatal conditions, such as heart failure. He was photographed wearing a white lab coat at his Mission Viejo home.
The article described Peterson's skepticism about chemotherapy as a cancer treatment. It also reported that one of his clients canceled a traditional health insurance plan in favor of "natural health insurance," which did not cover hospitalizations or tests but gave discounts for the vitamins and supplements Peterson sold. An online version of the article is headlined " 'Natural doctor' says he can cure cancer, AIDS."
The district attorney's office alleges that some of the patients featured in the Register article who spoke favorably of Peterson were either friends or relatives; and that those relations were not disclosed in the original article. Prosecutors said it was irresponsible for the paper to publish an article that did not contain that information.
"It gives a forum for snake oil salesmen to put out outrageous claims that they are curing AIDS and cancer with vitamin supplements," said Susan Kang Schroeder, a district attorney's spokeswoman.
Rebecca Allen, deputy features editor for the Register, said the reporter made "an effort to be fair and explore why people would go to such a doctor."
She said the reporter received a call after the article ran, saying one of the clients interviewed for the article was Peterson's sister. The reporter investigated the tip, but was not able to prove it. She also said the article included comments from other experts who disagreed with Peterson.
Peterson was very unhappy with the article, according to Allen, and wrote an e-mail to the newspaper saying, "Instead of the article being about how I help people it was about how I am a quack instead."