By Jesse Marx
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By CP Staff
"Eric is smart; he's a scientist," says Joe Jeansen, a longtime customer who works as a musician in New York City. "He's got a firm understanding of mammals, and it's pretty in-depth."
BEHIND THE SCENES OF the charismatic chiropractor's office, trouble was brewing.
The complaints were minor at first. The Minnesota Board of Chiropractic Examiners noted that Weisman was calling himself a "holistic practitioner" on his letterhead and asked him to remove the term from his advertising.
A few years later, the board came knocking again, this time over multiple complaints that Weisman had billed too much for services and charged for procedures that were never performed. Weisman admitted to the board that he didn't typically take the vital signs of his patients and sometimes improperly administered acupuncture independent of any chiropractic procedure. The board placed him on probation for one year.
Almost immediately after the probation began, complaints came pouring in that Weisman was offering excessive treatments with exorbitant price tags. He also gained a reputation around the Ramsey County courthouses for suing patients who wouldn't pay.
"His bills were very, very high—outrageously high," says Paul Phelps, an injury lawyer whose clients sometimes used Weisman for accident-related chiropractic work. "He was trying to get money out of me from what the insurance wouldn't pay."
Bizarre advertisements began popping up in local papers. One implied that Weisman was a part of Fairview Lifetime Fitness. Actually he had just set up shop in the same building.
In one case, a woman claimed that Weisman had advised her to back her car into a wall several times to make an accident look worse for the insurance company, according to an order filed by the Board of Chiropractic Examiners. (Weisman says that if the incident occurred he was likely joking.)
The board placed Weisman on probation for five years and required him to do 300 hours of community service as penance. About two years later, when Weisman still had not completed the community service, the board summoned him back. Weisman had finally exhausted his last chance.
"The board said enough is enough," recalls Dr. Larry Spicer, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Chiropractic Examiners. "We can't even control his behavior with orders. It's time to take away his license."
ON THE AFTERNOON OF January 9, 2001, Dr. Weisman and Dr. Spicer met in a conference room in the dreary office building of the Board of Chiropractic Examiners. With them were three other board members, and two representatives of the attorney general's office.
The atmosphere was tense. Weisman's license was on the line.
"Okay," said Spicer. "How did you come by your professional designation as a doctor?"
"By going to chiropractic college and getting a state license," answered Weisman.
"So the presumption is, then, that all things in which you refer to yourself as a doctor derive from the fact that you went to chiropractic college, studied chiropractic, and got a license as a doctor of chiropractic?" Spicer prodded.
"Mmm hmm," said Weisman.
"Then how can you then use that degree to give credibility to what you're doing with regard to pets?"
"Why not?" Weisman answered.
Buoyed by the success of his pet food, Weisman had begun experimenting on the strays he took in. His first, a sickly stray cat named Cranky, was force-fed vegan pet food and a mixture of milk thistle liquid, flax seed oil, and garlic. When she recovered six weeks later from what Weisman believed to be Hepatitis, he took it as a sign of success and began formulating his own supplement regimens. He called it "Metabolic Medicine," a treatment that combined vitamins, minerals, plant proteins, and a low-fat vegetarian diet.
In addition to Evolution Diet, Weisman's website began offering $50 packages to treat cancer, kidney failure, and dementia, not including the price of up to $275 worth of vitamins and supplements. For $100, pet owners could buy a "Heart Disease Emergency Treatment Plan" that included a 24-hour emergency pager number for Weisman. For one client, Weisman recommended a dog receive caffeine enemas for lymphoma.
The buzz soon grew loud enough to reach the ears of the Minnesota veterinary community. The University of Minnesota's Dr. Julie Churchill, an associate clinical professor of small animal nutrition, first met Weisman when he approached her hoping to get her to study the benefits of his pet food. But when she heard he was advocating a vegan diet for cats and ferrets, she wanted no part of it.
"You cannot, capital N-O-T, safely feed a cat a vegan diet," she says. "To use food in a medical way you should really know what you're doing."
After looking at Evolution Diet, Churchill reported numerous violations of advertising and labeling to the Department of Agriculture. At one point ads for the diet implied that the food could extend a cat's lifespan to over 20 years (12-15 years is the average lifespan for cats).
At the same time, the chiropractic board was hearing complaints that Weisman was keeping his pets in the office, and sometimes did his chiropractic treatments covered in animal hair and without washing his hands.
Finally, the Board of Chiropractic Examiners launched a full investigation. Weisman was called in for a series of depositions, where assistant attorney general Susan Damon grilled him about the basis of his research.