Wednesday 19 August 2009

17 A Doctor backs the Rundown

A US doctor mounted a vigorous defence of Scientology’s Purification Rundown, the controversial treatment at the centre of the Paris trial.

The morning had been devoted to fairly damning testimony against Scientology by two witnesses for the plaintiffs in the case: Jean-Pierre Brard, a deputy in France’s Assemblée Nationale; and former member turned critic Roger Gonnet.

That afternoon, a key witness for the defendants got his say: a doctor from California who had been called to defend the Purification Rundown from a medical perspective.

At the start of his testimony, Dr. David Root, speaking through an interpreter, ran through his qualifications: a Batchelor of Science degree from the University of North Carolina (1958); a Masters in Public Health from John Hopkins, Baltimore (1962); board certified in occupational and aerospace medicine.

He was also a fellow of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine; a member of the Aerospace Medical Association; a fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine; and a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society (UK).

Dr. Root said he had spent 20 years in the US Air Force as a flight surgeon and pilot before retiring in 1980 and opening his practice in 1981, specialising in occupational health. He had used the Hubbard system of detoxification since 1982, he said.

“I first became aware of Hubbard’s programme in 1982/83 when I had two patients who were exposed to toxic fumes when painting a large water tank without protection.” he said.

“I did a little research to try and find some way to help by possibly removing the toxic materials they had inhaled. I found nothing in the literature until I came across L. Ron Hubbard’s programme.

“Before trying it on anyone else, my wife and I both went to the programme to test it and see if it had any negative effects. Although neither of us had had toxic before the programme, we felt better afterwards,” he added.

Dr. Root, speaking slowly and deliberately for the benefit of the interpreter, went on to describe the elements of the Purification Rundown – or detoxification programme, as he preferred to call it.

“First of all, I would like to say that I am not a Scientologist. I am an elder in the Presbyterian Church and have no ties to the Church of Scientology.

“The programme I use in my office is exactly the same as the Scientology church uses in their purification programme, and it is exactly as it was put forth in Hubbard’s book, Clear Body, Clear Mind.

“The person coming into the programme first has a full physical exam to rule out occult medical problems. The person then comes into the clinic and the first thing is he or she starts off with a relatively low dose of Niacin, Vitamin B3.

“The dose starts at 50 to 100 milligrams and is step-wise increased, depending on the person’s tolerance, up to 2,500 to 3,000 milligrams.

“Occasionally I would take a patient up higher, depending on the tolerance, going no higher than 5,000. I will describe a case a little bit later that demonstrates the use of Niacin.”

The reason the niacin was used in increasing doses in this was to do with the fat cells, said Dr. Root. “Niacin will break off fatty acids, release them into the bloodstream,” he said.

And with the release of the fatty acids into the bloodstream, fat products stored in those blood cells were also released, he added.

“Niacin causes an intense red flushing of the skin. In the general population, this flushing is felt to be a negative aspect of the use of niacin,” Dr. Root continued.

“But the programme uses that effect because the flushing produces sweating, which is the main mechanism by which the body eliminates toxins.”

The next stage of the programme was aerobic exercise of up to 30 minutes, which at his clinic was normally achieved on cycling machines, he continued.

“About the time the exercise is coming to an end, the niacin flush will occur. At that point we put the person in the sauna so they can start to sweat.”

“…she began excreting from her skin black matter”

The subject would be in the sauna for ten, 20 or 30 minutes and would then come out and take something to drink and then the minerals and vitamins as set out in Hubbard’s programme, he said.

The sauna would be set at the relatively low level of 60 to 80 degrees (140 to 176 Fahrenheit), and the process would continue for between two and a half and five hours a day.

“Over that period of time the individual will be in the sauna five to seven times, sweating profusely. An adult male will sweat as much as four or five litres a day,” said Dr. Root. This was important because sweating was the best way of ridding the body of toxins.

But as well as toxins, the body was also sweating out vitamins and minerals it needed, “and they absolutely must be replenished.” Hence the doses of vitamins and minerals set out by Hubbard.

The programme as he ran it at his clinic generally took about 30 days to complete.

Dr. Root singled out one difference between his programme and the people who took the Purification Rundown at a Scientology centre. His subjects were generally patients: they came to him sick, he said.

“My patients were generally sick – that is to say they had had exposure to toxic chemicals at work, or in the environment, or some of them were abusing drugs.

“Because I am a physician and was doing the detoxification programme in my office, I could monitor these people much more closely than the Church of Scientology could do.”

Besides the minerals and vitamins and fluids the individual would also be given graduated doses – two to eight tablespoons – of oil, he added: a combination of walnut, soy, peanut and sunflower oil.

Dr. Root went on to describe a case he said illustrated several points about the programme that he wanted to make.

This involved a 23-year-old woman who had come to his clinic having been exposed at her work to toxins from an oil-fired electricity generator. Her job had been to clean the filters by spraying them with a hose and would get splashed with the resulting grimy residue, he said.

Over a period of months she had become very ill with extreme fatigue, malaises and could not sleep. “Eventually she had to be taken off work because the symptoms were too severe to continue.”

So Dr. Root put her Hubbard’s detoxification programme.

“After two or three days on the programme she began excreting from her skin black matter,” he said. She would shower before starting the programme each day and as the programme went on, he said, “…she would have these large globs of black material on her skin and bathing suit.”[1]

As he gave her the niacin, he said, “…over two or three days the matter became lighter and lighter and then stopped coming out.

“We then upped the programme, which is a standard part of the treatment, and out would come the black matter again.” This happened about five separate times, as they increased the level of niacin, he added.

“Eventually, when we got to the end of the programme, it tapered off and finally stopped.” The treatment had lasted 45 days. The case was written up and published in a journal, he said, and a copy of the case report was available for the court.[2]

The case was also worth noting because when the insurance company handling the woman’s medical cover refused to pay for the treatment, the case went to court and the company was finally obliged to cover the bill, he said.

Dr. Root also described his work at the New York clinic running the detoxification programme, set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.

The programme helped those members of the emergency service who had worked on the clean-up process after the attacks, said Dr. Root.

Because most of the people at the disaster site were exposed to heavy doses of particles at least 30 of them had developed problems.

“…the improvement… was very remarkable”

Here again, some of the people who did the programme sweated substances out of their skin, staining their tee-shirts and towels. They sent a piece of one towel to a lab for tests and the results showed traces of the metal manganese.

Dr. Root’s work on detoxification had also taken him to Ljubljana in Slovenia in 1987, where he treated people for the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at a capacitor factory. (PCBs were widely used in a range of products, including capacitors, until their toxicity was discovered and they were banned.) [3]

“Most of the people were heavily exposed to this toxic material.” Those treated “had an excellent improvement of their symptoms,” he said.

In 1995 he was part of a team that went to Moscow to try to help children exposed to fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Russian physicians trained in this programme treated a number of teenagers, looking at the decay of radioactive caesium and monitoring the change of other symptoms the children displayed, such as fatigue, troubles with brain function,

Although the decay of the caesium was accelerated under the programme, Dr. Root conceded that their work did not produce conclusive results to show therapeutic results so far as radiation was concerned. “But the improvement that they had overall in their general well-being was very remarkable,” he said.[4]

Returning to their work in New York in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Dr. Root said that his office had received a call in October, the month following the attacks, from fire-fighters in New York City asking us for help.

The treatment centre they set up in the city as a result had treated approximately a thousand fire-fighters, police officers and other patients, said Dr. Root, “and the improvement is very astounding, when you see some of these people, who could hardly walk up a flight of stairs – and these are very well-trained people in good physical form – and they get back to just about the level of health they have before exposure.”

Dr. Root had also been an advisor to the Salt Lake City programme known as the Utah Meth Cops Detox Program. “These are police officers who were exposed when they were busting these meth (methamphetamine) labs and the programme had been sponsored by the state’s attorney general,” said Dr. Root.

“In summary, I have treated somewhere in the number of 4,000 cases in my own office. I have had absolutely no problems of overdoses of vitamins or any of the substances used in the programmes – and I must stress again that the important thing for the court to understand is we are flushing huge amounts of… minerals, water and vitamins and it is absolutely imperative that the individual have those vitamins and minerals replaced regularly.”

Judge Château asked if he followed the programme as set out by Hubbard exactly, regardless of what happened.

“The programme has not been altered one bit as put forth by Mr. Ron Hubbard in my office or any of the other programmes I have mentioned,” said Dr. Root. “I may have mentioned that I do use the book Clear Body, Clear Mind, in my practice because it is the best explanation of the programme that I have seen.”

And were the vitamins given the same way to every patient, the judge asked?

“The niacin generally is stated a different levels, depending on the size of the individual,” said Dr. Root. But people of a similar size would start at about the same dose.

But he added: “Each patient has a different response to the niacin and the sauna exposure.” So while people of about the same size might start on the same minimum dose the degree to which the doses were increased depended on that individual reaction.

“And in my practice, because I was treating sick people, I was also monitoring on a daily basis,” he said.

The difference with the Rundown at Scientology centres was they were not treating people who were sick and their technicians were very well trained, he added. “I would not trust a highly trained nutritionist to do what these technicians do because it is a very specialised training, and without that training… even a well-trained nutritionist would have difficulties.”

“…you are flushing fat-soluble vitamins out of the body”

And what was that training, asked Judge Château?

“The training is designed pretty much by Mr. Hubbard – or was designed by Mr. Hubbard. As he was putting this programme together he realised he would have to have people well-trained to follow each step.”

But they were well-trained in what area, asked the judge?

“In the use of vitamin and minerals as they apply to the different steps of the programmes, as they progress,” said the doctor.

So they needed to interpret each person’s reactions, asked the judge?

“Yes, absolutely.”

Judge Château asked if all the vitamins involved were all freely available in the United States, and Dr. Root said they were.

Including Vitamin A, at whatever dose, asked the judge? Yes, said Dr. Root.

In France, it was not on sale to anyone, but only on prescription at certain doses, said Judge Château. If I was put on the programme, could I use it, she asked?

“I’m a little bit confused: I don’t know,” said the doctor. “It would be very difficult.

“Vitamin A interacts with Vitamin D and both are flushed out. You are simply replacing, replenishing the stores of these vitamins that are being flushed out,” he said.

And could the doctor confirm what previous experts had said about the sauna causing fatigue, asked the judge?

“No,” said Dr. Root. “Actually, most of the patients, though they might be a little fatigued from the exercise, tended to lose their fatige as the toxic materials came out of the body.”

And could people work normally at the same time as they were doing the programme, she asked?

“Absolutely,” said the doctor: that was possible. “Most of my people, who were sick, continued working. We would not take them off work,” he said. It was an out-patients programme.

“Even the fire-fighters we treated would not be taken off work. They could only give us about two and a half hours a day, which is the minimum. And they are doing a lot of work – they have a lot of fires they go to – and they were able to continue to follow the programme without a problem.”

And what about allegations that some combinations of the ingredients on the rundown, such as the Calmag, could be harmful, asked the judge?[5]

“We use the Calmag also,” said Dr. Root. “It is a very good relaxant and also tends to help with bowel movement. We had no problem with it.”

But the court had heard from experts who had said that there was a problem with the combination of Vitamin D and Calmag, said the judge.

“I’m not sure how to answer, but I would ask the expert to look at the programme and actually monitor it and see there have not been any problems that I am aware of.”

And what about the dangers of large doses of Vitamin A, asked Judge Château?

“The dose of Vitamin A, if that were given at those doses to someone not going through the programme – then yes, they would have problems. But because you are flushing fat-soluble vitamins out of the body, they have to be replenished also.”

But wasn’t a balanced diet enough for that, asked the judge?

“A balanced diet is strongly encouraged through the programme,” said Dr. Root – though many people had no idea what that was, he noted.

“But again, keep in mind: four or five hours a day for 30 days is a large amount of material going through the body and it is flushing these materials out, including the minerals.”

So did the programme not require medical supervision, Judge Château asked?

“In my practice, treating heavily exposed people, yes. But in the Purification Rundown in the Church – they do a good medical examination and in my view that is all they need.”

Problems with niacin “very unusual”

Now it was the turn of Maître Olivier Saumon, the lawyer for the Order of Pharmacists, a plaintiff in the case precisely because of the large doses of vitamins and minerals in the programme.

How had Dr. Root got to know about Mr. Hubbard’s programme, he asked?

“I had two patients and I was looking for a programme and I happened to come across a programme. I went to the clinic (and) I was able to get a large wad of documents and read through them.”

And were these scientific studies, asked Saumon?

There had been a very large binder full of documents about saunas and the minimum and maximum exposure. But he could not, he said, tell exactly what those materials had been.

But this file came from Scientology, said Saumon.

“Well the binder did, but the material was not Scientology generated,” said Dr. Root.

We don’t know that, said Saumon and he moved on, asking him about the pharmacological properties of Niacin.

Niacin was a very important vitamin in terms of energy production, said the doctor, though most Americans did not suffer from a deficiency.

And what about the contra-indications, asked Saumon?

“Certainly, but that is very unusual in my experience and it is important for the court to understand that there are two forms: crystal form rapid-acting is the one we use.

“The other form is slow-release niacin and that is the form that has been shown to be occasionally toxic to the liver.

“There are no more than one or two cases in the world literature that show this problem in fast-acting niacin…”

The flushing and the itching sensation were uncomfortable, but there was no medical problem, said the doctor.

And did it not provoke dermatological problems, asked Saumon?

“I believe there is some indication in the literature, but I have not seen any myself,” said Dr. Root. And the flushing effect that he had witnessed was only temporary, he added.

Saumon asked about the pharmacological properties of Vitamin A, but this time Dr. Root pointed out that he was a clinician, not a researcher: he did not carry that kind of information around with him.

What about the contra-indications of Vitamin A over 500 milligrams, asked Saumon?

“I’m sorry, not off-hand,” said the doctor.

“You don’t have an answer to that?” said Saumon?


Saumon went back to the detoxification programme as Dr. Root ran it, for occupational illnesses. What were his patients complaining of?

Interestingly enough, said the doctor, many people had presented a similar range of symptoms: skin problems, headaches, sleep problems, extreme fatigue, sexual dysfunction, muscular aches and pains.

And in his view, did the detoxification prevent or cure these occupational diseases, Saumon asked? To indicate where he was going with his question, he quoted from a paper that appeared to suggest that the detoxification programme helped eliminate tumours.

“First of all,” said Dr. Root, “I have never used the treatment programme to treat any type of tumour,” though he was interested that this appeared to have been done.

“I know that many conditions improve with exposure to heat, but I am not familiar with this case. I have seen strange things happen and this may be a case of that,” he added.

“I don’t claim to cure any one of them”

Saumon asked him about the specialist technicians he had mentioned when answering the judge’s questions.

And now Dr. Root explained that his technicians, the ones he used at his clinic, were Scientologists who had been trained at one of Scientology’s training centres.

“The reason for that is that it was easier… to have someone who had the knowledge and the training rather than taking someone off the street and training them.”

And of the 4,000 people he said he had treated, asked Saumon, how many had he cured?

“I don’t claim to cure any one of them. What I did was to improve their conditions. But I would say that 98 to 99 percent had significantly improvement in their conditions when they came to see me.”

And how had the scientific community received his papers on this treatment, asked Saumon?

“I don’t know how to answer that,” said the doctor. “I’m not sure.”

“Are all your colleagues in agreement with your conclusions,” asked Saumon. He mentioned one colleague in particular by name: Stephen Pittel.[6]

“No,” said Dr. Root. But it was not clear if he was conceding that some colleagues did not agree with him – or saying he had not heard of Pittel.

Asked if he knew how the Rundown worked here in Paris, Dr Root said he assumed that it worked exactly the same as in California.

Olivier Morice, for the plaintiffs, picked up the questioning. Which catastrophe was Dr. Root working on now, he asked facetiously?

He occasionally got called back to New York to help if they had a case, and he had been to Salt Lake City on at least two occasions when they were first setting up the Utah Meth Cops Detox Program, said Dr. Root. “I have no other disasters on my agenda.”

9/11, Chernobyl, the Gulf War, said Morice: one of the criticisms made of Scientology was they reacted by proselytising; spreading the word to people who were particularly vulnerable. What did Dr. Root think of that?

“I think that is a totally fallacious statement,” he replied. “In New York City I know for a fact that a least 800 Scientology members did react.”

They had turned out to the disaster site, handing out refreshments, doing whatever they could could, he said. “I think it is terrible to criticise them for trying to help,” he added.

“I have been associated with the Hubbard detoxification programme since 1982 and I have never, ever been approached by anyone from the Church of Scientology to try to get me to join.”

Morice tried asking about how Dr. Root reconciled his own beliefs as a Presbyterian with those of Scientology, but he did not get very far with that line of questioning.

When the defence took over, they re-established that Dr. Root had indeed done the programme with his wife when he was first investigating it.

And they got him to repeat that while his patients got regular medical supervision he did not think that people in perfect health needed such supervision when following the Purification Rundown at a Scientology centre.
[1] The interpreter had a few problems with “large globs” and in the end settled for something like “des gros machins”.
[2] The woman’s case is written up in Excretion of a Lipophilic Toxicant Through the Sebaceous Glands: A Case Report Journal of Toxicology 1987; 6(l): 13-17 (abstract)
[3] This work was written up in Xenobiotic reduction and clinical improvements in capacitor workers: A feasible method: Z. Tretjak, D.E. Root, A. Tretjak, R. Slivnik, E. Edmondson, R. Graves, and S.L. Beckmann
[4] Colleagues of Dr. Root produced a paper, Treatment of Children with the Detoxification Method Developed by Hubbard, by R. Michael Wisner, G. Megan Shields, M.D., Shelley L. Beckmann, Ph.D. The paper, presented at the Proceedings of the American Public Health Association: National Conference; San Diego, 1995.
Their presentation cited two of Dr. Root’s papers and the abstract for this paper says: “Children uniformly eliminated Cs-137 more rapidly than expected, with the exception of two cases in which children were eating contaminated treats from home. (Rapid elimination of Cs-137 resumed when these items were eliminated from their diets.)”
[5] The Cal-Mag formula set out by Hubbard for the Purification Rundown is: a level tablespoon of calcium gluconate (15 ml) in a normal-sized drinking glass; a half-level teaspoon (2.5 ml) of magnesium carbonate; a tablespoon (15 ml)of cider vinegar (at least five-percent acidity) – all stirred well before half a glass (120 ml)of boiling water is added and stirred in until all the powder is dissolved and the liquid is clear. The glass is then topped up with lukewarm or cold water and covered. Clear Body, Clear Mind, New Era Publications 2002, pp64-6. Dr. Root is co-author of an introduction to recent editions of the book.
[6] Pittel told John DeSio of the New York Press that the detoxification theory behind Hubbard’s programme was a myth: “It takes place all by itself. You don't have to do anything for the body to detoxify itself. There's nothing that does anything to hasten the detoxification process.” Hubbard’s claims that toxins could be stored indefinitely in human fat tissue – and that the Rundown forced these toxic out – were also false, he said. “The Rundown on Scientology’s Purification Rundown”, June 6, 2007. New York Press.

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