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Patient of suspended Bothell physician speaks out in his favor
Kirsten Gittins, 45, said when she heard her naturopathic physician was suspended, it hit her like a punch in the stomach.
"I sat there feeling hurt and angry," she recalled. "Basically, to me, they are going after a man who saved my life."
Bothell naturopathic physician Dr. John Catanzaro was suspended and is facing charges for allegedly duping cancer patients into treatments with an unapproved experimental vaccine. Catanzaro is the founder and president of the Health and Wellness Institute in Bothell.
Gittins came to Catanzaro three years ago after being diagnosed with stage 4 metaplastic carcinoma, an invasive breast cancer that can spread to the lymph nodes and other areas of the body, especially the lungs. Doctors had told her she had one year to live.
"I had been going to all these other places where each place had different ideas of how I should treat my cancer and it made me feel so confused," Gittins said. "I didn't know who to trust or to believe, so I did nothing."
After watching her father die of cancer, Gittins felt weary of the standard chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.
"I decided I wanted to try a comprehensive, integrative approach instead," she said.
She was referred to Catanzaro by another naturopathic physician and drove from her home in Port Townsend to Bothell with hope he could be the one to offer the treatment she was looking for.
"We sat down together and he told me everything about his treatment system," she said. "For the first time since my diagnosis, I felt listened to, respected and I felt safe. I knew they were experimental cancer IV nutrition treatments; he kept nothing from me or any other patient of his I have spoken to.”
The Board of Naturopathy and the Washington State Department of Health reported Catanzaro was failing to appropriate protocols for implementing cancer research on people and obtaining investigational new drug approval from the Federal Drug Administration. The charges state Catanzaro, “did not disclose the experimental nature of a cancer treatment to his patients, who believed the vaccine administered to them was effective and that the research was approved when it was not.”
The board found Catanzaro to be an “immediate danger” to the public’s health, safety and welfare. They ordered his credential to practice as a physician be suspended and that all credentials, including wall, display and/or wallet be delivered to the department, according to state documents.
The Reporter has made several attempts to contact Catanzaro for this and a previous story and received no response.
Gittins said none of the accusations from the health department are true.
“I got to choose who I wanted on my team from his office and to take control of my own health,” Gittins said. “I felt empowered.”
Gittins’ first time in Catanzaro’s office was in March 2011. His staff drew blood and gathered information about her past health experiences and her current lifestyle. She was prescribed anti-cancer nutrition intravenously, which Gittins says includes 100 grams of vitamin C and other nutrients. She received her first treatment on May 11.
“I asked Dr. Catanzaro how long it would take until I started feeling different from the treatment and he said two to three weeks and that was correct,” Gittins said.
By day 10, a chunk of Gittin’s tumor had disappeared. By June 11, the entire tumor was gone, she said.
“It was a phenomenon to get up out of the bed and do something seemingly simple, like make myself a cup of tea,” she said.
Gittins said she went through two rounds of chemotherapy, receiving treatments from Catanzaro’s office the entire time to ward off the side effects from chemotherapy.
“I didn’t have those basic terrible side effects that happen,” she said. “And now here I am today, feeling great and not looking like a person that had stage 4 cancer.”
Gittins is still going to Catanzaro’s business for IV treatments, but none in relation to cancer, as those treatments have stopped due to Catanzaro's suspension. Gittins is not the only one of Catanzaro’s patients who is still standing behind him.
Amy Neiman wrote a letter to the Reporter, stating her mother-in-law Marilyn Neiman was healed by Catanzaro’s approach. Marilyn suffered from Grave’s disease and was declared legally blind. Amy says that her mother-in-law’s eyesight is now restored.
“Dr. Catanzaro evaluated her situation carefully and realistically, fully disclosing that his treatments and remedies were not FDA approved and not covered by insurances,” Amy wrote. “Rather than being careless with his examinations, he created individualized treatment plans involving meticulous analysis of her charts and kept close track of her reactions and progress.”
Gittins believes more people aren’t speaking out due to fear. Many of Catanzaro’s posts to blogs connected to other health sites or his own church’s website, Mars Hill, were removed after his suspension.
“We are afraid people are going to attack us or use our words against us,” Gittins said.
Amy believes Catanzaro was reported to the health department because his alternative care “scares” the health industry.
“The multi-billion dollar healthcare industry is unsustainable without the perpetuation of illness,” she said. “If cures were to get out and be verified, business would be diverted away from traditional facilities unless they embraced on a grand scale, new philosophies and methods of treatment. This uncomfortable prospect is reason indeed for practitioners such as Dr. Catanzaro to be silenced.”
Gittins said if Catanzaro’s business is shut down, she would search for another naturopathic clinic.
“I believe in these vaccines,” she said. “If they close down this facility, so many people from around the state that come to Dr. Catanzaro for help would be crushed and most likely be looking for a new place like it to go to.”
Catanzaro has until March 14 to respond to the state administrative charges. The board could dismiss the charges, negotiate a settlement or impose sanctions up to the loss of his license.