ILADS Jennifer Armstrong: Admits Professional Misconduct

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Jennifer Margaret Armstrong is a doctor in Nepean, Ontario, Canada. Armstrong has been associated with the pseudoscience groups ILADS and American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM).

Armstrong is also the ex-wife of Joseph Mercola, who is known as one “the Biggest Quacks Plaguing America with False Claims About Science.” Jennifer Armstrong also reportedly made an appearance in the propaganda film Under Our Skin

A serious issue in the chronic Lyme community is the large number of individuals who are treating fake diseases and not getting the care they need and deserve.

Discipline

The Discipline Committee (the “Committee”) of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (the “College”) found Armstrong guilty of professional misconduct. Additionally, Armstrong admitted that she committed an act of professional misconduct by failing to maintain the standard of practice of the profession.

A petition was started to “Revoke Dr. Jennifer Margaret Armstrong’s Medical License”, but it was not successful.

Specifically, Armstrong admitted to the following facts laid out by the Committee:


PART I – FACTS

1. Dr. Armstrong is a general practitioner with a special interest and additional training in environmental medicine. She received her MD from the University of Toronto in 1977 and has held a certificate of registration authorising independent practice from the College since January, 1986. She has focused her practice on environmental medicine since about 1997. She is a board member of the Environmental Health Association of Ontario (the “EHA-O”).

Patient A

2. Patient A was 19 years old at the time Dr. Armstrong met and treated her. Patient A had previously been treated by environmental care practitioners. She had had two previous suicide attempts and several prior hospitalisations.

Dr. Armstrong’s Involvement with Hospital 1 (the “Hospital”)

3. In November, 2010, Patient A was involuntarily admitted to the Hospital on a Form 1 in November 2010 Patient A’s mother sent an email to the EHA-O with respect to Patient A’s admission to the Hospital. The email explained that the “ER physician formed [Patient A]”, and that the Hospital was concerned about some “bizarre behaviour” on the part of Patient A, and her ability to manage her own care and safety.

4. In the email Patient A’s mother advised that Patient A had previously been diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (“MCS”) but that this diagnosis was not being recognized nor was Patient A being treated for MCS at the hospital. Patient A’s mother sought the assistance of the EHA-O “to help [Patient A] get out of there and into a safe environment”. A copy of Patient A’s mother’s email to the EHA-O is attached at Tab 1 [To the Agreed Statement of Facts].

5. As a result of receiving the email, Dr. Armstrong attended at the Hospital in November 2010, in her capacity as a board member of the EHA-O, along with two other board members. They met with the Chief of Staff with respect to Patient A and provided information on environmental illness and chemical sensitivities by the Ontario College of Family Physicians (Environmental Health Committee). Dr.Armstrong did not provide medical treatment to Patient A at that time, nor did she have access to any of Patient A’s records.

6. After her meeting with the Hospital, Dr. Armstrong had an email exchange with Patient A’s mother in which Dr. Armstrong referred to the physicians with whom she had met as “not too bright”. A copy of this email is attached at Tab 2 [To the Agreed Statement of Facts].

7. Patient A had originally been hospitalised involuntarily on a “Form 1”. Once her status was changed to voluntary, she and her mother signed her out against medical advice. This occurred in November 2010.

Dr. Armstrong’s Treatment of Patient A

8. In December 2010, Patient A attended on Dr. Armstrong for the first time. Dr. Armstrong noted that Patient A did not currently have a family doctor. Patient A’s mother indicated that physicians who had been approached had refused to take her on as a patient.

9. At Patient A’s first appointment with Dr. Armstrong in December 2010, Patient A’s mother provided a summary of Patient A’s medical history, including a history of cognitive decline and seizures. Patient A’s mother reported that Patient A had been treated by a physician practising environmental medicine in the past and had improved considerably. In addition to the recent Form 1 stay at the hospital of which Dr. Armstrong was aware, Patient A’s mother also reported Patient A’s previous suicide attempts and hospitalisations in about January, 2009 and June, 2010.

10. Patient A attended on Dr. Armstrong in December 2010, January 2011 and April 2011. On each occasion, in assessing Patient A, Dr. Armstrong failed to perform any mental health assessments. Dr. Armstrong recommended a regime of IV Vitamins which were administered between December 2010 and April 2011. Dr. Armstrong also treated Patient A with minerals and amino acids and lowered Patient A’s thyroid medication in response to tests.

11. Dr. Armstrong did not see Patient A again after April 2011, although Patient A’s siblings continued to see her for several more months. In May, 2011, Dr. Armstrong subsequently learned that Patient A committed suicide.

12. The College received a report about Patient A’s death from the Office of the Chief Coroner in September, 2012, and commenced an investigation into Dr. Armstrong’s care of Patient A on the basis of that report. Patient A’s mother did not complain to the College.

Dr. Armstrong Failed to Maintain the Standard of Practice

13. Dr. Armstrong took no steps to investigate or treat Patient A’s mental health issues. Nor did she take any steps to assist Patient A in finding a primary care physician or other specialist. Dr. Armstrong did not refer Patient A to a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional. Patient A did not find a family physician.

14. The College retained Dr. X to provide an opinion on the standard of care provided by Dr. Armstrong to Patient A. Dr. X concluded that Dr. Armstrong’s care and treatment of Patient A failed to maintain the standard of practice of the profession and opined as follows:

There were no conventional treatments offered or documented for her psychiatric symptoms. Patient was not treated for her psychiatric symptoms by another physician according to the chart. Dr. Armstrong did not refer this patient to another physician for the psychiatric symptoms or her seizures.

The patient did not have a family physician. Instead, Dr. Armstrong concentrated on giving vitamins, minerals and amino acids, which are not the standard of care. Her focus regarding this patient was on chemical sensitivities and metal toxicities…


Penalty

Because of her admitted Professional Misconduct, Armstrong received a reprimand, had conditions and limitations placed on her license to practice medicine, and was required to pay costs to the College in the amount of $4,460.00.

License Revocation in Texas

After the 2014 disciplinary action in Ontario, the Texas Medical Board revoked Armstrong’s license to practice medicine in Texas. Armstrong agreed to voluntarily surrender her license in lieu of investigation and potentially additional disciplinary proceedings in Texas. 

Cult members stand by their leader

In 2015, Inside Ottawa Valley reported that the local Chronic Lyme pseudoscience group Lanark Fights Lyme (LFL) was still standing by Armstrong despite the death of Armstrong’s patient and the finding of misconduct.

According to Inside Ottawa Valley, Armstrong was welcomed with open arms by LFL. Myrna Lee, the group’s president, continued to take her daughter to Armstrong and called the investigation a distraction. Lee admits that she “sounds paranoid” in relation to her charge that “Any doctor who treats Lyme disease goes under investigation for one reason or another.”

Typically in cults, believers are convinced to ignore the wrongdoings of their leaders. Any attempts to prosecute the leaders are seen as a conspiracy theory, and the cult’s beliefs are further reinforced.

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