Healers at War

THE STATE BOARD OF MEDICAL PRACTICE

          ANOTHER UNCONVENTIONAL healer is under fire from the state Board of Medical Practice. Recently, the agency announced it had reached an agreement with Helen Healy, a naturopath whose St. Paul practice it sought to close after an undercover investigation. But even as Healy's supporters celebrated, patients of Minneapolis physician Dr. Keith Sehnert were preparing a petition drive to stop a licensing action against their doctor. The board filed a notice of hearing against Sehnert in late August; a hearing was set for October 8, but has since been put off indefinitely.

          Essentially, the board charges Sehnert with focusing too much on candidiasis, a syndrome thought to be caused by an overload of yeast in the body. According to the complaint, Sehnert's "evaluations, diagnoses, investigative tests, and treatments were the same for all 27 patients" whose charts were reviewed in the investigation. The board also claims that Sehnert diagnosed yeast infections and food allergies based on improper or incomplete tests, and that candidiasis "has never been proven and is not accepted by the majority of medical practitioners."

          Sehnert's defenders counter that he focuses on yeast problems because he's a nationally recognized authority in the field and one of the few doctors in Minnesota familiar with candidiasis. They note that the investigation was conducted seven years ago, that Sehnert appeared at hearings about it four years ago, and that the complaint's characterization of candidiasis relies on 10-year-old medical data. It now appears that their argument has made some impression with the board: Early this week, patients who've followed the case said the agency appeared close to reaching an agreement with Sehnert. Neither Sehnert nor board officials could be reached for comment.

          THE MINNEAPOLIS POLICE Department has finally turned over arrest statistics by race for its pilot Operation Safe Streets program, conducted last year in nine Minneapolis neighborhoods. As suspected, the numbers paint a questionable picture: Of 146 arrests during August and September 1995 (the MPD, which originally counted 330 arrests for that period, notes that the latest information is "sporadic and incomplete"), only 13 were of white people; the remaining 133, or 91 percent, were of minorities. The MPD had to produce the numbers because of a challenge to the program by a team of attorneys representing a black motorist named Bob Austin, who was stopped in August for a brake lights violation and failure to signal a turn in a timely fashion. As part of Safe Streets--which was designed to give police increased latitude in using small violations to look for bigger ones--officers searched his car and found cocaine and marijuana. Austin and his attorneys are claiming that the seized drugs shouldn't be allowed into court because the stop was discriminatory in the first place.

          "A RECORD NUMBER of resignations and retirements" was one of the main factors cited by the MPD this summer for its well-publicized personnel troubles. Sudden shrinkage of the force was again mentioned in news stories when Gov. Arne Carlson threw state troopers and their choppers into what he described as an inner-city war zone. But according to a detailed personnel report submitted to the City Council last week, the MPD has actually lost fewer officers this year than in '94 and '95; 44 have been fired, quit, or retired so far in '96, compared to 52 in each of the past two years. And contrary to official handwringing, there are more Minneapolis cops this year than ever before--896 total, up from 858 just two years ago. The only thing that's changed, according to the data the MPD presented, is that for the first time in years, the department is below the number of officers its budget allows: It currently has 896 sworn officers, 18 fewer than the total authorized strength of 914.

          AFTER YEARS OF rancorous machinations over the racial composition of the Minneapolis Fire Department, the city may now be facing additional litigation over gender discrimination at the MFD. According to a source close to the issue, "The rumblings are getting loud. There had been broken promises about the gender composition of the firefighter class last year, and when the female firefighters learned there were no women in this year's authorized class, they started going to the City Council. Yesterday [Monday] a group of senior female firefighters indicated to some council members that if the situation wasn't addressed, they were prepared to sue."

 
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