Domenick Braccia: Patient alleges “unnecessary and dangerous treatment”, “a cult-like atmosphere”

Domenick Braccia is a Doctor of Osteopathy who claims to be “Lyme literate” and runs Haverford Wellness Clinic in Harleysville, PA. As is typical of “Lyme literate” doctors, he has no recognized advanced credentials in infectious disease.

Braccia is associated with the pseudoscience group ILADS. In 2010, the Healthcare Protection Agency of UK–after noting the vulnerability of patients “desperate for an explanation and possible cure for their illnesses”– issued scathing conclusions about guidelines issued by ILADS:

  • The ILADS guidelines are not evidence-based and are poorly constructed.
  • Application of the ILADS guidelines’ poorly defined case definitions will result in a very high risk of misdiagnosis.
  • Use of ILADS guidelines’ vague treatment recommendations, including prolonged use of antibiotics, has potentially serious consequences.
  • Patients misdiagnosed with Lyme disease risk losing opportunities for diagnosis and treatment of other conditions. They also risk serious physical, psychological social and financial adverse events.

Money owed to the state of Pennsylvania

In January 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue issued a lien to Domenick Braccia for unpaid tax, interest, additions or penalties totaling $3960.35. The lien was related to his 2013 personal income tax.

As of November 30, 2018, the case was still listed as “open” and there was no indication that the money had been paid.

Partnered with an ALS quack

See full post: ALS patients exploited

Braccia is a former business partner of Patricia Kane, a woman who is not a medical doctor. She claims to have a PhD in nutrition, but it is from an unaccredited institution. Nevertheless, she developed the PK Protocol which she sold to patients at Haverford Wellness Center.

A conference listing from 2004 advertises that Kane and Braccia would be presenting the PK “Protocol for neurological disease that includes multiple daily infusions of IV phosphatidylcholine, glutathione, diet, and oral supplements.” No science-based medical organization supports the PK Protocol for any condition.

Braccia is listed as a contributor to a book by Kane called “The Detoxx book: Detoxification of biotoxins in chronic neurotoxic syndromes”. Detox claims are typical red flags of quackery.

According to a 2008 CBS 3 investigation, patients said Kane had given them false hope by telling them they didn’t have ALS. She charged them thousands of dollars for treatments without good evidence for safety and efficacy.

A patient’s horrific story

Ashley Peloquin (nee Pettis) describes, in a Philadelphia Inquirer news story and a malpractice lawsuit, spending over $30,000 being treated by Braccia. The saga started when she was 20-year old student. The story sounds like a depressingly typical case of a patient who was mistreated by a “Lyme literate” quack.

“Chronic Lyme” has always been a cult that convinces victims to spend enormous amounts of money on quackery to treat one or more fake diseases. The cult’s narrative sounds plausible because Lyme disease is a real illness and chronic Lyme treatments usually involve FDA-approved antimicrobials (prescribed inappropriately).

According to her lawsuit, Peloquin ended up living in housing furnished by Braccia, “creating a cult-like atmosphere where patients are discouraged from seeking outside medical opinions.”

Peloquin couldn’t have known that the overwhelming scientific consensus does not support the bizarre beliefs of “Lyme literate” doctors.

In the alternate universe of chronic Lyme, patients are typically diagnosed with multiple fake diseases. Peloquin says Braccia didn’t just diagnose her with unsubstantiated Lyme disease, but he also diagnosed her with anaplasma and mycoplasma. The CDC says mycoplasma is not known as a tick-borne disease. And in reality, Lyme disease and anaplasma are curable in one month or less.

In the cult of chronic Lyme, fake test results are very important to confirm fake diseases. Peloquin alleges Braccia sent her blood to a fringe laboratory “in an effort to provide sham laboratory support for a fictitious Lyme disease diagnosis.” But even when the test results were apparently negative, that did not stop Braccia from making the diagnoses.

According to the lawsuit, Braccia treated Peloquin for 5 months with oral and IV antibiotics at a weekly cost between $1,300 and $1,700. There are six double-blind trials showing that more than one month of antibiotics are unnecessary for Lyme disease, even if a Lyme diagnosis was warranted.

The CDC documented way back in 1993 how intravenous antibiotics had destroyed the gallbladders of teenage girls being treated at a hospital that employed a “Lyme literate” quack. Peloquin’s gallbladder had to be removed. It would certainly make sense that the loss of her organ was a result of inappropriate antibiotics she received.

The cult of chronic Lyme frequently gaslights its members by falsely claiming their psychological symptoms are “Lyme rage” and that negative effects are a good thing because it is “herxing“. Peloquin’s lawsuit claims Braccia diagnosed her with “Lyme rage” and “herxing”.

The complaint filed September 29, 2015 by Peloquin is displayed below. As of November 30, 2018, the case was still pending.

Malpractice Lawsuit


ASHLEY E. PELOQUIN and TIMOTHY A. PELOQUIN
PLAINTIFFS

v.

DOMENICK BRACCIA and HAVERFORD WELLNESS CENTER, LLC
DEFENDANTS

Court of Common Pleas

Montgomery County, PA

Civil Action – Law

JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

COMPLAINT

2070-Medical Malpractice

THE PARTIES

1. Plaintiff, Ashley E. Peloquin, is an adult citizen and resident of Pennsylvania who lives at █████████

2. Plaintiff, Timothy A. Peloquin, is an adult citizen and resident of New Hampshire who lives at █████████

3. Defendant, Domenick Braccia, D.O., is an osteopathic physician, licensed to practice medicine in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who is a self-proclaimed “Lyme literate” doctor, specializing in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease. He practices at 345 Main Street, Suite 4, Harleysville, PA 19438. Plaintiffs are bringing a professional malpractice claim against this defendant.

4. Defendant, Haverford Wellness Center, LLC, is a healthcare entity organized and existing under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with offices located at 345 Main Street, Suite 4, Harleysville, PA 19438. Plaintiffs are bringing a professional malpractice claim against this defendant.

5. At all times relevant hereto, Haverford Wellness Center, LLC, acted by and through defendant, Domenick Braccia, D.O., who was its authorized agent, servant or employee acting within the course and scope of his employment.

BACKGROUND

6. In November 2013, Ashley E. Peloquin, age 20, presented to Haverford Wellness Center (HWC) with a history of intermittent fatigue, joint pain, headaches, muscle weakness, vertigo, insomnia, and possible lapses in attention and memory.

7. At the time, Ms. Peloquin was attending Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA., and was working part time.

8. On November 20, 2013, Ms. Peloquin was seen at HWC by a physician’s assistant, Kenneth R. Baird, PA-C.

9. Ms. Peloquin reported to Mr. Baird that she had received prior treatment for Lyme disease, consisting of 21 days of doxycycline, an antibiotic.

10. Mr. Baird ordered blood testing for Lyme and other parasites and instructed Ms. Peloquin to return in four weeks.

11. On December 11, 2013, Ms. Peloquin again presented to HWC.

12. On December 11, 2013 she saw the defendant, Dr. Braccia. On December 11, 2013, Dr. Braccia’s plan was to hold oral antibiotics and “consider” IV antibiotics.

13. On January 9, 2014 she saw PA Baird. On January 9, 2014, PA Baird ordered oral antibiotics.

14. On January 20, 2014, Ms. Peloquin presented again to HWC, and Dr. Braccia had what he terms a “treatment talk” with Ms. Peloquin.

15. In this January 20, 2014, meeting, Dr. Braccia told Ms. Peloquin that she had “late stage” Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and a mycoplasma infection.

16. Dr. Braccia told Ms. Peloquin that these problems were causing her symptoms, and that, without treatment, she would get worse. Dr. Braccia told Ms. Peloquin that she had failed oral antibiotics and would not get better without long-term intravenous (IV) antibiotics.

17. Dr. Braccia told Ms. Peloquin that Lyme disease (and potentially another organism) had entered her brain and that only IV antibiotic therapy could cross the blood brain barrier and kill the organism(s) responsible for her problems.

18. Dr. Braccia told Ms. Peloquin that she would need a PICC line surgically inserted to provide IV access for the antibiotics.

19. Over the next five months, Dr. Braccia treated Ms. Peloquin with many powerful antibiotics, both by IV and orally.

20. Ms. Peloquin’s insurance carrier, Capital Blue Cross, would not pay for this “treatment” because it was well outside the medical standard of care.

21. Plaintiffs, Ashley E. Peloquin and Timothy A. Peloquin, were forced to pay Dr. Braccia/HWC out of pocket for Ms. Peloquin’s “treatment.” Because Ms. Peloquin did not have adequate funds to pay Dr. Braccia, her father, plaintiff, Timothy A. Peloquin, had to pay.

22. Dr. Braccia’s “treatments” cost between $1,300 and $1,700 per week.

23. After starting “treatment,” Ms. Peloquin began suffering significant side effects, including nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, weakness, palpitations, anxiety, and ultimately seizures.

24. Dr. Braccia told Ms. Peloquin that she was feeling bad because the antibiotics he administered were killing the Lyme bacteria in her body, which releases toxins. He said that this process was necessary and “you have to get worse to get better.”

25. Dr. Braccia told Ms. Peloquin that the reaction she was having is called, in medical parlance, a “herx,” and that such patients are described as “herxing.”

26. Ms. Peloquin was commuting from Lancaster County to Harleysville, approximately two hours each way, for Dr. Braccia’s antibiotic therapy, five days a week.

27. After treatment started, due to symptoms from Dr. Braccia’s antibiotic treatment, Ms. Peloquin suffered a serious car accident on the Pennsylvania turnpike.

28. Ms. Peloquin eventually became so ill that she had to stop working, and in February 2014, Dr. Braccia supported Ms. Peloquin reporting to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare that she was disabled from “late stage” Lyme disease.

29. In February/March 2014, Dr. Braccia diagnosed Ms. Peloquin with “Lyme rage.” He prescribed further powerful antianxiety medications to treat this supposed “condition.”

30. Ms. Peloquin became so ill from all the medications that Dr. Braccia had prescribed that in March 2014 she informed Dr. Braccia that she was no longer physically able to commute to his office from Lancaster.

31. At that juncture, Dr. Braccia and his wife and office manager, Kim, advised Ms. Peloquin to begin living in a nearby home that belonged to someone in Kim’s family. They told Ms. Peloquin that if she did not move into this home and continue IV antibiotic treatment she would not get better and likely would get worse.

32. Thus, at the recommendation of Dr. Braccia, Ms. Peloquin began living at this home with some other of Dr. Braccia’s patients who also, according to Dr. Braccia, were “herxing.” Ms. Peloquin was required to pay utility and other expenses there.

33. Eventually, in June 2014, Ms. Peloquin became critically ill. Ms. Peloquin was admitted to Grandview hospital for acute cholecystitis, caused by her chronic antibiotic therapy. She underwent a cholecystectomy.

34. Ms. Peloquin remained in Grandview Hospital for a week while treaters at Grandview essentially detoxed her from the antibiotics that Dr. Braccia had prescribed and addressed their profound concerns that this 20-year-old woman was living in a home controlled by Dr. Braccia and receiving therapy that she not only didn’t need but was dangerous to her.

35. At Grandview Hospital, Ms. Peloquin learned from providers there that Dr. Braccia’s diagnosis was not supported by any objective laboratory data and that her antibiotic therapy had been unnecessary. This opinion also was corroborated by an infectious disease specialist in New Hampshire near Mr. Peloquin’s home.

36. National consensus Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment standards have been established by, inter alia, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), which is the flagship organization for medical specialists in the United States who treat infectious diseases.

37. The medical standard of care is clear that Lyme disease and other like bacterial parasites are treated with an appropriate oral antibiotic, such as doxycycline, for a period of two to three weeks and no longer.

38. Infectious disease experts have extensively studied the notion of “Late Lyme disease,” and there are no valid scientific data to support this diagnosis or antibiotic treatment for it.

39. Because qualified laboratories used by the medical community report Lyme disease testing according to generally accepted medical standards, Dr. Braccia sends blood samples for Lyme testing to fringe laboratories that support so-called Lyme literate doctors who wish to treat Lyme disease and other parasites without objective medical data to support the diagnosis.

40. Dr. Braccia sent Ms. Peloquin’s blood samples to, inter alia, such a laboratory in an effort to provide sham laboratory support for a fictitious Lyme disease diagnosis.

41. In fact, the laboratory data obtained by Dr. Braccia, even from the fringe laboratory he used, showed no evidence that Ashley E. Peloquin had acute Lyme disease or any other parasite.

42. Dr. Braccia recognizes in his own website that: “Obviously if we can’t clearly prove that an individual’s symptoms are due to infection with Lyme disease, treatment of non- infected individuals can only lead to unnecessary complications, and not help the patient get well. It can even delay further evaluation that may lead to the correct diagnosis.” Nevertheless, Dr. Braccia did just that in Ms. Peloquin’s case, causing her substantial harm, in violation of the medical standard of care.

43. Dr. Braccia has created a medical practice that preys on vulnerable patients who are chronically ill without a diagnosis. The design of the practice is to convince such patients that they have Lyme disease and/or some other parasite, which Dr. Braccia claims will not be recognized by “traditional” doctors and “traditional” medical testing. Dr. Braccia tells such patients that they can only be cured through the use of expensive IV antibiotics.

44. This practice is not covered by medical insurance because all insurers recognize that such “treatment” has never been scientifically validated and is well outside the medical standard of care: In short, there is no proof it is effective, and it poses a significant danger to the patient.

45. When patients become sick from Dr. Braccia’s bogus therapy, he reassures them that the treatment is working by telling them that they are “herxing,” which is a made-up medical concept in this context.

46. Dr. Braccia even induces some of his vulnerable patients, including Ms. Peloquin, to continue paying cash for his bogus treatment by recommending that they stay in a nearby home with other patients; the home is controlled by Dr. Braccia’s wife and office manager, creating a cult-like atmosphere where patients are discouraged from seeking outside medical opinions.

47. Dr. Braccia further induces some of his vulnerable patients, including Ms. Peloquin, to continue paying cash for his bogus treatment by recommending that patients see other medical practitioners affiliated with Dr. Braccia, with whom he has a referral relationship. Dr. Braccia knows that such practitioners will discourage patients from leaving his practice.

48. Dr. Braccia further induces some of his vulnerable patients, including Ms. Peloquin, to continue paying cash for his bogus treatment by diagnosing them with “Lyme rage,” which is a made-up diagnosis. Dr. Braccia knows or should know that such patients are anxious, not from “Lyme rage,” but as a complication from the unnecessary antibiotics he prescribes.

49. Defendants’ improper conduct and care caused serious physical, emotional and financial harm to plaintiff Ashley E. Peloquin, including:

a. The out-of-pocket payment of fees directed to Dr. Braccia and HWC of over $30,000 for unnecessary treatment;

b. Significant costs for medications that were unnecessary;

c. Travel and out-of-pocket expenses that were unnecessary;

d. Lost tuition of $5,000 when Ms. Peloquin had to withdraw from college due to complications from Dr. Braccia’s unnecessary and dangerous treatment;

e. Past and future lost wages;

f. Past and future medical and counseling expenses relating to injuries suffered as the result of Dr. Braccia’s unnecessary and dangerous treatment;

g. Pain and suffering and loss of life’s pleasures;

h. Scarring and disfigurement;

i. Loss of Ms. Peloquin’s gall bladder, which resulted in unnecessary surgery and ongoing digestive problems;

j. Post-traumatic stress syndrome;

k. Motor vehicle damage and emotional distress from Ms. Peloquin motor vehicle accident, which occurred because she lost control of a vehicle on the Pennsylvania Turnpike due to severe symptoms from prolonged IV antibiotics.

50. Defendants’ improper conduct and care caused financial harm to plaintiff, Timothy A. Peloquin, including:

a. The out-of-pocket payment of fees directed to Dr. Braccia and HWC of well over $30,000 for unnecessary treatment;

b. Costs for medications that were unnecessary;

c. Travel expenses and out-of-pocket expense;

d. Lost tuition of $5,000 when Ms. Peloquin had to withdraw from college due to complications from Dr. Braccia’s unnecessary and dangerous treatment;

e. Past and future lost wages;

f. Past and future medical and counseling expenses relating to injuries Ms. Peloquin suffered as the result of Dr. Braccia’s unnecessary and dangerous treatment.

51. The misconduct of the defendants described herein increased the risk of harm to the plaintiffs.

COUNT I

Medical Negligence/Malpractice

Plaintiff Ashley E. Peloquin vs. All Defendants

52. Plaintiff incorporates all of the foregoing allegations herein.

53. Defendants Dr. Braccia and HWC, acting by and through their employees, servants, actual and ostensible agents, acting within the course and scope of their agency and employment, were negligent and careless and breached the medical standard of care in the following respects:

a. Failing to adhere to the National consensus Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment standards established by, inter alia, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA).

b. Breaching the medical standard of care for treatment of Lyme disease and other like bacterial parasites.

c. Improperly diagnosing plaintiff, Ashley E. Peloquin with “Late Lyme disease” when there are no valid scientific data to support this diagnosis or antibiotic treatment for it.

d. Sending Ms. Peloquin’s blood samples to an unreliable laboratory that serves so- called Lyme literate doctors in an effort to provide sham laboratory support for a fictitious diagnosis.

e. Improperly diagnosing Ms. Peloquin with “late stage” Lyme disease, when the laboratory data obtained by Dr. Braccia, even from the fringe laboratory he used, showed no evidence that Ashley E. Peloquin had acute Lyme disease or any other parasite.

f. Causing Ms. Peloquin to suffer unnecessary complications from the improper course of treatment prescribed and administered by defendants;

g. Delaying the correct diagnosis of Ms. Peloquin’s symptoms;

h. Prescribing and administering a medically unproven and potentially dangerous course of treatment for Ms. Peloquin;

i. Improperly intimidating/persuading Ms. Peloquin to continue the medically unproven and potentially dangerous course of treatment that defendants prescribed;

j. Improperly informing Ms. Peloquin that she had “Lyme rage,” a diagnosis which has no medical or scientific basis;

k. Improperly inducing Ms. Peloquin to continue taking and paying cash for the medically unproven and potentially dangerous treatment that defendants prescribed and administered;

l. Inaccurately diagnosing Ms. Peloquin’s worsening symptoms as the proper response to the treatment defendants prescribed and administered;

m. Improperly misleading Ms. Peloquin to believe that her worsening symptoms were a sign that the treatment defendants prescribed and administered was working.

54. Defendants’ conduct was wanton, willful and reckless.

55. Defendant, HWC is vicariously liable for the misconduct of Dr. Braccia.

56. Defendants’ improper conduct and care caused the serious physical, emotional and financial harm to plaintiff, Ashley E. Peloquin as set forth above and incorporated herein.

WHEREFORE, plaintiff demands of defendants, jointly and severally, a sum in excess of the statutory limit for arbitration and damages under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure

238, together with lawful interest and cost of suit and brings this action to recover same. Plaintiff also seeks an award of punitive damages.

COUNT II

Negligent Misrepresentation

Plaintiff, Ashley E. Peloquin v. All Defendants

57. Plaintiff incorporates all of the foregoing allegations herein.

58. Dr. Braccia negligently misrepresented to Ms. Peloquin that she had “late Lyme” disease and Lyme rage.

59. Dr. Braccia failed to disclose to plaintiffs that Ms. Peloquin’s laboratory testing did not support such diagnoses.

60. Dr. Braccia failed to disclose that the late Lyme disease diagnosis had been rejected by all relevant national standards organizations, including the CDC and IDSA, and that there is broad consensus in the medical community that the risk of long-term IV antibiotics greatly outweighs any possible benefit of long-term IV antibiotics in her situation and thus was well outside the accepted medical standard of care.

61. Plaintiff, Ashley E. Peloquin, relied to her detriment upon the negligent misrepresentations of the defendants.

62. Such representations were material.

63. Defendant HWC is vicariously liable for Dr. Braccia’s negligent misrepresentations.

64. Dr. Braccia’s improper conduct and care described above caused serious physical, emotional and financial harm to plaintiff, Ashley E. Peloquin, as set forth above and incorporated herein.

65. Defendants’ conduct was wanton, willful and reckless.

WHEREFORE, plaintiff demands of defendants, jointly and severally, a sum in excess of the statutory limit for arbitration and damages under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 238, together with lawful interest and cost of suit and brings this action to recover same. Plaintiffs also seek an award of punitive damages.

COUNT III

FAILURE TO OBTAIN INFORMED CONSENT

Plaintiff, Ashley E. Peloquin v. Dr. Braccia

66. Plaintiff incorporates all of the foregoing allegations herein.

67. Dr. Braccia failed to obtain proper informed consent from Ms. Peloquin to place a PICC line and provide IV antibiotics for “late Lyme” disease and Lyme rage. He failed to properly disclose the benefits (which are none) and risks of the treatment he proposed.

68. The placement of a PICC line was surgery, and the administration of IV antibiotics in this situation was use of an approved medication in an experimental manner, as set out in 40 P.S. § 1303.504(a).

69. Dr. Braccia failed to disclose to plaintiff that Ms. Peloquin’s laboratory testing did not support such diagnoses.

70. Dr. Braccia failed to disclose that the late Lyme disease diagnosis had been rejected by all relevant national standards organizations, including the CDC and IDSA, and that there is broad consensus in the medical community that the risk of long-term IV antibiotics greatly outweighs any possible benefit of long-term IV antibiotics in her situation and thus was well outside the accepted medical standard of care.

71. Dr. Braccia’s improper conduct and care described above caused serious physical, emotional and financial harm to plaintiff, Ashley E. Peloquin, as set forth above and incorporated herein.

72. Defendant’s conduct was wanton, willful and reckless.

COUNT IV
Plaintiff, Timothy A. Peloquin v all Defendants
73. Plaintiff incorporates all of the foregoing allegations herein.

74. The misconduct of the defendants described above, has caused the serious financial harm to plaintiff, Timothy A. Peloquin as set forth above and incorporated herein.

WHEREFORE, plaintiff demands of defendant Dr. Braccia, a sum in excess of the statutory limit for arbitration and damages under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 238, together with lawful interest and cost of suit and brings this action to recover same. Plaintiffs also seek an award of punitive damages.

COUNT V
Plaintiffs vs. All Defendants

Punitive Damages

75. Plaintiff incorporates all of the foregoing allegations herein.

76. The misconduct of the defendants, as set forth above, was wanton, willful and done with reckless disregard for the safety of Ashley E. Peloquin.

77. The defendants’ misconduct was committed when they knew or certainly had reason to know that their acts or omissions created a high degree of risk of physical, emotional and financial harm to plaintiffs and defendants proceeded to act in conscious disregard, or indifference, to that risk.

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs demand of defendants an award of punitive damages.

 

RAYNES McCARTY

 

BY: Charles P. Hehmeyer, Esquire

Attorney for Plaintiffs

Date: September 29, 2015


Resources

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Pa. woman says she was sickened by risky Lyme treatment

Pennsylvania Department of Revenue: Domenick Braccia Tax Lien

LymeScience: ALS patients exploited

Ettestad PJ, et al. Biliary complications in the treatment of unsubstantiated Lyme disease. J Infect Dis. 1995;171(2):356-61.

CDC. Ceftriaxone-associated biliary complications of treatment of suspected disseminated Lyme disease–New Jersey, 1990-1992. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 1993;42(2):39-42.