May 30, 2017

Doctor rebuked over 'spiritual healing' group touting 'esoteric breast massage'

Authorities say Samuel Tae-Kyu Kim failed to disclose his involvement in Universal Medicine when inappropriately referring a patient to devotees of group

Joshua Robertson
The Guardian
May 30, 2017

A doctor and university lecturer who advocates for a controversial “spiritual healing” group touting unproven treatments including “esoteric breast massage” has been given a scathing reprimand by medical authorities.

The respiratory physician Samuel Tae-Kyu Kim failed to disclose his involvement in Universal Medicine when inappropriately referring a patient to other devotees of the group, including its founder, a former bankrupt tennis coach with no medical qualifications.

Kim, 46, who practises at a premises owned by the group at Lismore and a private medical centre in Brisbane, told the professional standards committee of the Medical Council of New South Wales that he first suspected the patient’s complaint was part of a “conspiracy” to discredit Universal Medicine as a cult.

But the committee found this month he made “significant ethical errors and failings in respect of proper professional standards” in treating the woman for more than two years for a chronic cough.

Kim, also an unpaid senior lecturer at the University of Queensland medical school, told the woman that “deep-seated grief is a major driving factor in lung disease”.

The committee heard that Kim inappropriately prescribed an unconventional “bioidentical” hormone replacement therapy provided by Michael Serafin, a compound pharmacist and Universal Medicine participant, in what the physician admitted was an area “beyond the scope” of his medical expertise.

NSW health authorities investigated Serafin last year over his manufacture of a cocktail of injectable vitamins for use in a Sydney “hangover” clinic that was shut down when a client was hospitalised after an intravenous infusion.

Serafin is now forbidden by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency from making or supplying the so-called “Myer’s Cocktail” hangover mixture or products containing ketamine.

The committee noted Kim’s “competence in the practice of conventional respiratory medicine is at odds with an apparent casual acceptance of unproven treatments”.

This was “even to the extent of accepting, for [the patient] an HRT treatment ‘prescribed’ by a non-medically trained pharmacist, without inquiring into the actual nature or composition of that treatment”, it said.

Kim did not make clear to the patient that he had trained in Universal Medicine with Serafin and Neil Ringe, who performed “chakra puncture”, another unproven Universal Medicine treatment, on the woman.

Kim referred the woman to his partner, now wife, and fellow Universal Medicine devotee, Jasna Jugovic, for a $70 “esoteric lung massage”, without disclosing their relationship or that there was no scientific evidence the treatment worked.

He also urged the patient to see the Universal Medicine founder, Serge Benhayon.

Kim told the committee that Benhayon “offers ‘spiritual healing’ which, to my observation, can be used to complement conventional medicine, much in the same way many people find benefit from meditation or religion when they suffer from chronic illness”.

But Kim admitted he “did not make sufficiently clear to [the patient] the distinction between the conventional medicine I was providing as her thoracic physician and the complementary therapies I recommended she pursue with Mr Ringe, Ms Jugovic, Dr Serafin and Mr Benhayon”.

Universal Medicine has previously come under fire from medical experts, including professor John Dwyer, the president of the Friends of Science in Medicine.

Dwyer told a 2014 state parliamentary inquiry into false and misleading health practices: “There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that 99.9% of doctors would be horrified to think that [Universal Medicine-linked doctors] would place patients in the hands of these people ... Could it be that these doctors actually believe?”

Dwyer said Universal Medicine subjected patients to “a whole series of nonsense therapeutic approaches”, including “esoteric breast massage”.

“They claim they can massage your back and actually massage your lungs if you have lung conditions; the practitioners say they have the power to talk to a woman’s ovaries and learn about that; and they explain that all illnesses are due to past misdeeds in previous incarnations of your life.”

The inquiry found there was little evidence of actual harm but “concerns were raised that patients may forgo seeking proper medical advice and care”.

Two patients undergoing Universal Medicine therapies were independently diagnosed with cancer and bronchiectasis and needed medical intervention to be properly treated, it said.

Kim did not refer his patient for esoteric breast massage. But on a website he has praised it as “a great opportunity for women to influence their own health and wellbeing and to potentially alter the current trajectory of serious disease”.

“In addition to medical care, these beautiful women choose nurturing ways of preventing ‘breast cysts’, ‘painful lumps’ or ‘coldness’ in parts of their breasts,” Kim says.

A respiratory medicine expert called by the committee, Deborah Yates, said Universal Medicine affected an attitude towards the origin of illness “which conventional medicine abandoned in the 19th century”.

This “heightens the need to clearly distinguish for patients the difference between conventional medicine and Universal Medicine”, Yates said.

The committee found Kim’s referrals to fellow Universal Medicine devotees “lie at the heart of his unsatisfactory professional conduct” and it remained “concerned that Dr Kim does not adequately recognise his own bias in relation to Universal Medicine practices”.

It ordered he seek the approval of a second specialist before referring patients to complementary therapists, and clearly explain the difference from conventional medicine and any personal or professional links with them.

Kim must also submit to regular supervision and an audit of his medical practice by the Medical Council of NSW.

He has the right to seek a review of the ruling with the council and to appeal it in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.


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