More MS news articles for May 2001

Bee-sting treatments to be probed

By Judy Siegel

(May 17) - The Health Ministry will investigate three cases of patients who reportedly suffered serious, but not fatal, complications after a non-medical practitioner intentionally exposed them to deliberate bee stings as treatment for chronic conditions.

Ministry associate director-general Dr. Yitzhak Berlovich, who learned from The Jerusalem Post of the cases - published in the latest issue of the Israel Journal of Family Practice - yesterday asked for the article and said his legal experts would decide whether to file complaints to the police against the practitioners.

Berlovich said that the ministry had not received any complaints from patients against complementary medicine practitioners who applied bees to patients' skin. "We unfortunately don't have the means to actively go and pursue all the complementary medicine practitioners who advertise that they perform medical treatments even though they do not have a medical license - despite the fact that such treatment is a criminal offense. It would be something else if we had 500 or 1,000 more employees to do only this."

Dr. Yair Shamoun, the ministry's official in charge of medical professions' licensing, said ministry policy is to act when its ombudsman receives a complaint about complementary medicine practitioners who allegedly gave medical treatment, even if it was not invasive. There are few such complaints, he said, "but even when we do file a complaint, the police usually close the case due to 'lack of public interest.'"

The Hebrew-language article, "Apitherapy - Renaissance of a Dangerous Treatment Approach," was written by Dr. Ya'acov Fogelman of the family medicine department at Ha'emek Hospital in Afula and of the Technion medical school, and Dr. Yishai Lechter of the same medical school and Haifa's Rambam Hospital.

Fogelman and Lechter identified the apitherapist in two of the three cases as Moshe Elmaliah of Haifa. Asked to comment, Elmaliah told the Post he has been a bee keeper and teacher for 50 years and has many patients. He said he is currently treating patients with bee stings for numerous illnesses, including multiple sclerosis and arthritis. "I had a physician who came to me with hypertension; I gave him 1,200 bee stings and his blood pressure went down to normal." Elmaliah claimed he "never saw a case of anaphylactic shock in his practice," but was aware of it and had a syringe with the antidote on hand just in case. He claimed his treatment was "not invasive" and thus he "didn't have to be a doctor."

The Israel Medical Association (IMA) expressed shock over the case and demanded that the Health Ministry enforce the law barring non-medical practitioners from performing medical procedures.