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Thu, Feb-12-04, 16:02

Doctor Who Got Atkins' Death Report Is Selling His Own Diet Book
By Robert B. Bluey
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
February 12, 2004

(CNSNews.com) - The death of low-carb diet physician Robert Atkins may have produced both a financial boon for a Nebraska doctor who disclosed private medical information about Atkins’ condition at the time of his death and a political windfall for an animal rights activist group that received the information.

Dr. Richard M. Fleming, a cardiologist and founder of the Fleming Heart and Health Institute in Omaha, Neb., disclosed the report two months after releasing his own diet book in December.

Fleming's book, titled "Stop Inflammation Now!" has a list price of $24.95 and is critical of high-protein diets like the one made famous by Atkins.

The information Fleming obtained from the New York City medical examiner's office showed that the diet guru was obese when he died last April from the complications of a fall. Atkins' supporters said he gained more than 60 pounds from fluid retention after falling into a coma and eventually dying at age 72.

A critic of Fleming accused him of having a "profit motive" by sharing the report with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. That group has received more than $1 million from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the animal-rights movement.

"Fleming has a long-term animus against Atkins. He has been trying to demonstrate for years that Atkins dieting is harmful to people," said David Martosko, director of research for the Center for Consumer Freedom. "He also, by the way, has a profit motive. He's out there trying to sell books."

According to a description on Amazon.com, Fleming's book "recommends that his diet be adopted in two phases: phase one is composed solely of fruit and vegetables; after consistent improvement in cardiac health has been accomplished, phase two, which adds whole grains, low-fat dairy and moderate servings of protein, may be undertaken."

But the description also states, "Fleming is opposed to the currently popular high-protein diets for losing weight."

Under pressure from Atkins' widow, Veronica, Fleming apologized Thursday. His attorney, Scott Calkins, denied that Fleming had anything to gain financially by giving the report to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). He said Fleming had not sought out publicity.

"He had the report long before the Physicians Committee had it," Calkins said. "If he wanted to profit from it, he could have released the report directly to the media himself and taken advantage of all this, if that's what his motives were. That's just not the type of person he is. He's offended by the fact that PCRM released something like this."

Calkins said the Physicians Committee contacted Fleming after he had received the report from the New York City medical examiner's office. Fleming agreed to release it as long as it was used only for research purposes, Calkins said.

"The Physicians Committee obviously betrayed their representation to him as to the use of that report," Calkins said. "It wasn't to be released to the media."

The Physicians Committee didn't return a call seeking comment.

Fleming's association with the group dates back to a Nov. 20 press conference in Washington, which served as a forum to attack the Atkins diet. He was part of a panel that included Dr. Neal D. Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee, who is the author of several books that emphasize a vegetarian diet.

While the Physicians Committee can claim that releasing the information on Atkins was done in the best interest of the public, Fleming faces a different scenario. Atkins' widow, Veronica, has already expressed her concerns about the matter and could pursue legal action.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was notified of the situation this week by the New York City medical examiner's office, which admits it made an error when it issued the report to Fleming.

"We mistakenly released a case file. That case file was sent to a physician who subsequently released that publicly," said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office. "[Fleming] either released it or caused it to be released."

The medical examiner's office is supposed to only release medical reports to treating physicians and family members. Borakove said Fleming did not misrepresent himself in his request for information on Atkins.

Because complaints against doctors are confidential, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services couldn't confirm or deny whether one had been filed against Fleming. Spokeswoman Marla Augustine said the department's board of medicine and surgery would review such a complaint and pass along recommendations to the state attorney general.

"Unprofessional or fraudulent conduct is grounds for disciplinary action against a license to practice medicine and surgery in Nebraska," Augustine said. "The ultimate penalty is revocation, but there's a range of things that could happen to the licensee. There could be a civil penalty, a reprimand, probation, suspension or revocation."

Augustine said anyone could file a complaint against a doctor, and she noted that complaints remain confidential until the board submits a "petition for disciplinary action." She said only a small number of doctors are disciplined each year.

Regardless of whether action is brought against Fleming, Martosko said the doctor likely knew how the situation would play out.

"Fleming willfully turned over this deceased person's private medical file to the Physicians Committee, knowing full well what they would do with it," Martosko said. "He was very familiar with the group and its goals."

Fri, Feb-13-04, 07:42
Posted 2/13/2004 7:51 AM

Doctor who obtained Atkins data: I never wanted it public


OMAHA (AP) — An Omaha cardiologist accused of inappropriately obtaining a report on the death of diet guru Dr. Robert Atkins said he never misrepresented his position or intended the information to go to the media.

The New York City medical examiner's office has said Dr. Richard Fleming was mistakenly sent a copy of the report after requesting it. The office said it believes Fleming gave it to Physicians for Responsible Medicine, which released details of it earlier this week. Such reports typically are released only to a physician who had treated the individual.

Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York medical examiner, has said her office sent a letter to Nebraska health officials claiming Fleming inappropriately obtained and distributed a copy of its report. Fleming denied the accusation in a statement on Thursday.

"I clearly stated that I was not a treating physician or family member of anyone they had done an autopsy on," Fleming said.

Information in the report showed Atkins was at a weight normally considered obese when he died in 2003. The report also showed the 72-year-old had a history of heart trouble, including congestive heart failure and high blood pressure.

Fleming said his interest in the report was scientific and he wanted to gain insight into the health effects of the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet Atkins promoted and millions now follow.

In recent weeks, Fleming received numerous calls from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine asking for copies of the Atkins report, Fleming said in the statement. He said he never intended for the information to go public and felt "a sense of betrayal" because the report had been provided to the group "for research purposes only."

But Dr. Neal Barnard, who is president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said it was Fleming who took the initiative to contact his staff about the report.

"He was well aware that the report was being released to the press," Barnard said.

The intention of releasing the information was to stop the promotion of the diet based on Atkins' health, Barnard said.

The Atkins Physicians Council has defended Atkins' health and said his cardiomyopathy, or enlarged heart, was due to a viral infection and not a poor diet. The group has also attributed Atkins' weight gain to fluid retention in the eight days he spent in a coma before he died last April.


K Walt
Fri, Feb-13-04, 08:09
Geez, these guys are sleazy.

Fleming says this. . . Barnard says that . . .

At least there's division in the ranks of the crackpot zealots. Maybe they'll self-destruct and go away.

Nah. . . they'll just lie low for a while and come out with more sleaze in a few months. They're obsessesd.

Fri, Feb-13-04, 09:15
I think Dr Fleming is full of crap. Everybody knows that in America, bad publicity is good publicity. There's no difference anymore.

So he was looking into "researching" the affects of LCing using confidential autopsy records instead of published information. R-i-i-i-ght... :rolleyes:

(edit: ) I stand corrected - there *was* no autopsy. It was just a post-mortem.

Fri, Feb-13-04, 13:20
Dr. Malloy: Examining The Atkins Controversy

POSTED: 8:51 AM CST February 13, 2004
UPDATED: 9:09 AM CST February 13, 2004


CHICAGO -- Dr. Robert Atkins, the famous proponent of losing weight by cutting carbohydrates, died last April of head trauma after slipping on the ice.

The recent unauthorized release of his postmortem external examination by the New York City Medical Examiner's office told us that Dr. Atkins was 6 feet tall and weighed 258 pounds. Accompanying records said he had a history of heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension.

In other words, he was fat and had medical problems that can come from eating too much fat. But there are other views of these same facts that I want to analyze.

The Medical Examiner: Dr. Atkins was 6 feet tall and weighed 258 pounds. No autopsy or internal examination was done. It can't be determined from an external exam if the weight is made up of fat or fluid.

Mrs. Veronica Atkins: My husband suffered from cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle) He did have a heart attack in 2002 and he had "some progression of coronary artery disease" including "new blockage of a secondary coronary artery."

Dr. Stuart Trager -- Atkins Physicians Council: "He (Dr. Atkins) had no record of having a heart attack" Dr. Atkins gained 63 pounds of fluid while he was in a coma. It's true that seriously ill people can retain fluid but that means that Dr. Atkins was given 63 pounds of extra fluid over the 9 days he was in a coma.

This controversy is important to the estimated 30 million people who follow the Atkins Diet and believe it will not only make them thinner but also healthier. It's very important to the Atkins' network of companies which has hundreds of millions of dollars coming from the sale of books and products. It's also important to the people who oppose the Atkins' plan and think that low fat is the way to go.

What's the bottom line? The studies about the long-term efficacy and safety of the Atkins diet are ongoing and it will take years to get a valid scientific answer. The information about Dr. Atkins himself is conflicting and it's unlikely the true facts will ever be known. Dr. Atkins was cremated.

pd Rydia
Fri, Feb-13-04, 13:24
"News! News! News! We don't know anything! Stay tuned for more developments at 10!"

K Walt
Fri, Feb-13-04, 15:19
In other words. . . I don't know anything about this story, but I'm writing an article about it anyway just to pretend I'm saying something of importance. . .