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L.A. doctor in trouble after prescribing marijuana to 4-year-old

The Los Angeles Times
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LOS ANGELES — A Hollywood physician has lost his medical license after recommending that a father give his 4-year-old son marijuana cookies to control temper tantrums, according to California’s medical board.

Dr. William Eidelman, a natural medicine physician, improperly diagnosed the boy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder before recommending marijuana as the treatment, the medical board said in a decision announced last month.

Eidelman’s license was revoked as of Jan. 4, but he maintains that it is active and he continues to practice.

The penalties against Eidelman stem from his treatment of a young boy who was misbehaving in school and brought to the doctor’s office by his father in September 2012, according to the medical board report.

Much of Eidelman’s practice centers on writing letters for patients to obtain medical marijuana, which he said he began doing in 1997, shortly after the state first legalized the drug for medical use.

After a 30-minute visit with the boy and his father, the doctor wrote in his chart that the child had a “probable combination of ADD/ADHD and bipolar disorder” and should “try cannabis in small amounts in cookies,” according to the medical board’s decision.

The boy appeared nervous and agitated but not “abnormal,” according to an interview with the doctor that was included in medical board documents.

The doctor had previously recommended cannabis for the father’s ADHD and bipolar disorder, according to the board report.

The board found Eidelman “grossly negligent” for determining the boy’s diagnosis without consulting a psychiatrist, collecting information from the boy’s teachers, or asking his father about the child’s moods and sleep patterns.

“Tantrums alone … do not support either diagnosis,” the board’s decision said. “‘Being agitated’ and ‘having trouble sitting still’ hint at ADHD, but could simply hint at a preschooler not happy to have driven many miles to a doctor’s appointment.”

The board did not find fault with Eidelman for recommending marijuana to a child. The decision states that there is not enough scientific evidence to disprove that cannabis could have benefits for children.

“It has not been established, by clear and convincing evidence, that the recommendation of medical marijuana to (the boy), with his father’s consent, violated the standard of care,” the decision reads.

However, the board still views the recommendation for cannabis as improper, because the boy did not actually have the conditions that Eidelman diagnosed him with and for which he prescribed the cannabis.

The decision also took into account that Eidelman had been previously punished for prescribing marijuana to several undercover investigators in 2000 and 2001.

Though the medical board says Eidelman’s license has been inactive for the last three weeks, the doctor’s attorney, Tracy Green, said the doctor can legally practice medicine.

She said that she appealed the board’s decision before the revocation took effect, and that a San Francisco County Superior Court judge ordered that the revocation be halted, pending a hearing in March.

Eidelman, 69, said in an interview last week: “The judge ruled that the revocation is stayed, so yes, I’m still practicing.”

The online register of actions in the case in Superior Court does not include the judge’s stay. The judge’s clerks could not be reached for comment .

The medical board website lists Eidelman’s license as revoked.

“The Medical Board of California has not received a court order indicating that the revocation was stayed,” said medical board spokesman Carlos Villatoro in an email. “Accordingly, Eidelman’s license is currently revoked.”

Practicing medicine without a license can be punished with up to a year of jail under California law.

According to the medical board case documents, the 4-year-old’s father had tried more traditional medicines, such as Ritalin, for his own ADHD as a child and found them not only unhelpful but harmful. He said he felt like a “guinea pig.”

So the father began giving his preschool-aged son cannabis cookies in the morning, which calmed him, the dad reported. But the bad behavior returned in the afternoon, so the father asked a school nurse to give the cookies to the boy at lunch.

The nurse turned the father over to child protective services and law enforcement, leading to an eventual medical board investigation against Eidelman, according to the board report.

“Although he did not outright suggest a diagnosis … he all but made one up out of whole cloth,” the decision reads. “Labeling a child with a significant mental condition can be harmful … if those labels are incorrect, pernicious results may follow.”

Eidelman estimated that he has written more than 10,000 letters recommending cannabis to patients over the last 20 years.

He said he has long recognized that conventional medicine was a “train on the wrong track.” On his website, he offers several unique treatments, including one in which cigarette smokers affix to their ears a device that emits electric currents and thereby reduces their cravings for nicotine.

“From the beginning of my career, I’ve been looking for things that really worked and weren’t toxic,” Eidelman said in an interview. “And cannabis really works.”

Revoking a California medical license is very rare. Of the 149,283 doctors licensed in the state, 43 lost their licenses in the most recent fiscal year, only seven of which were for gross negligence — the misconduct of which Eidelman was found guilty — according to board’s latest annual report.