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public's help to move ahead
By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
The badly decomposed remains of Dr. Timothy Cunningham were found this month covered in mud along the riverbank of the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta. He had been missing since February 12.
Although authorities are saying there are no signs of foul play and the preliminary cause of death is drowning, others speculate that it may be murder and is part of a list of 86 mysterious deaths of naturopathic doctors in the United States.
Many of the deaths have been blamed on suicide. According to co-workers, Cunningham, 35, was recently passed over for a promotion at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he worked as an epidemiologist on public health emergencies but was allegedly involved as a whistle-blower for the flu vaccine.
"We sincerely thank all of you for the support and kindness you have shown our family during this difficult time,” said his family in a written statement. “We are processing this incomprehensible loss and request time and space to grieve."
Before Cunningham’s disappearance, he reportedly told a neighbor to delete his number from their phone. A “disturbing” text message was also sent to his mother at 5:21 a.m. prior to his disappearance asking, "Are you awake?"
His mother regrets that her phone was on silence and said, "I wish I had that opportunity to answer that text."
As police continue to investigate Cunningham’s case, other cases remain unsolved or have been ruled as suicide.
The first reported death was Dr. Jeff Bradstreet, who was found in a river with a gunshot wound to his chest on June 19, 2015. Authorities ruled his death as a suicide, but his family and others have doubts.
All of the deaths reportedly have a common feature – they all were using or researching natural ways to treat people suffering from illnesses such as cancer, kidney disease, autism, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and others.
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians describes its practice as “a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process.”
Whereas conventional medicine treats symptoms of an illness, naturopathic doctors treat the cause.
“Identify and treat the root cause of illnesses is one of the core principles of naturopathic medicine,” said Michelle Simon, PhD, ND, and Chair of the INM Board of Directors. “To address underlying causes, NDs often spend one hour or more with patients in an initial appointment. They take time to examine the whole person, including diet, lifestyle, genetics, psycho-emotional, spiritual, socioeconomic, environmental issues, and more.”
Some conventional health providers are threatened by naturopathic physicians and say they are crossing the line.
“It’s a threat to the profits of conventional medicine,” says Dr. Karla Mitchell, who has been practicing naturopathic medicine for 13 years. “There’s no real value in treating a person. The value is in the cost of care to the person who is sick. Conventional medicine is a system that generates revenue. The whole notion of natural medicine supports the body’s ability to heal itself naturally.”
Others say it is a lack of knowledge displayed by conventional health professionals that makes them envious of naturopathic physicians.
“They also fear that we know what they don’t know. They spend several years in school and are ashamed, when we are able to help their patients because they can’t,” said a naturopathic doctor who wishes to remain anonymous.
Many people are leaving conventional medicine and are turning to naturopathic doctors for help.
“I once suffered from diabetes and was getting insulin shots daily,” says Beatrice Johnson, 73. “On top of the shots, I was taking a handful of pills. I went to a naturopathic doctor, and he helped me to regain my health by changing my diet and taking natural supplements. I’m no longer a diabetic. My conventional doctor never suggested that I become a vegetarian and use natural supplements. I’ve saved so much money and time doing things naturally – God’s way.”
While the number of deaths of naturopathic doctors continues to rise, supporters encourage them to set their fears aside to keep healing the public naturally.
“Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it,” said Erin Elizabeth, a healthcare writer.