Universal Medicine / Serge Benhayon:
Doctor who gave patient medical history to Universal Medicine 'cult' stands down from AMA
May 2, 2018
A doctor who endorsed an alleged cult and secretly shared a patient's medical history with its leader has stood down from his role representing the Australian Medical Association (AMA).
Dr Sam Kim withdrew from the AMA's Queensland council after an ABC investigation into his second case of professional misconduct in a year relating to his ties to the controversial group Universal Medicine (UM).
UM, a multi-million-dollar enterprise that touts questionable treatments including "esoteric breast massage" and boasts 700 followers, has also drawn criticism for publicly revealing a former client's schizophrenia diagnosis.
private medical information had been passed on to Mr Benhayon, who has no medical qualifications whatsoever
In March, the NSW Privacy Commissioner found Dr Kim had violated his patient's privacy by sharing his records with Serge Benhayon, the UM founder who claimed to be the reincarnation of Leonardo Da Vinci.
'Why does he need this information?'
Business owner [Name redacted, but printed in linked 'source'.] consulted Dr Kim, a thoracic physician who practises in Brisbane and at UM headquarters in Lismore, for a lung condition in 2010.
Mr [Name redacted, but printed in linked 'source'.] had already received "energetic treatments" from Mr Benhayon but had grown sceptical about their value.
He stopped the treatments and later criticised UM in the media, but only learned last year that his medical history had been shared.
Mr [Name redacted, but printed in linked 'source'.] said he was surprised to discover the privacy breach when his GP looked up his records.
"Of course I must say at that time I was very shocked," he said.
"I felt very aggrieved that my private medical information had been passed on to Mr Benhayon, who has no medical qualifications whatsoever.
"It raises questions — why does he need to have this information?"
The privacy report said it was "unclear ... why it was necessary for Dr Kim to provide such a summary of what appears to be Mr [Name redacted, but printed in linked 'source'.]'s entire medical history to Mr Benhayon".
The privacy commissioner did not accept Dr Kim's claim that he had verbal consent to share the records, or that Mr [Name redacted, but printed in linked 'source'.] would reasonably expect this after telling Dr Kim about his consultations with Mr Benhayon.
Mr [Name redacted, but printed in linked 'source'.] could use the findings to take legal action against Dr Kim but said he would prefer an assurance that other patients' information would not be shared.
Following questions by the ABC, AMA Queensland chairman Dr Shaun Rudd said Dr Kim had "decided to stand down from the council pending resolution of his current situation".
Dr Rudd said the council had "a robust conflict of interest policy and AMA Queensland has full confidence in Dr Kim's ability to serve as a councillor".
Dr Kim was elected last year as a greater Brisbane area representative on the AMA Queensland council, which makes "by-laws about ethical considerations (including handling complaints related to the profession)".
Last May, shortly before his election, a medical professional standards committee of the NSW Medical Council found Dr Kim made "significant ethical errors and failings in respect of proper professional standards" in another case of referring a patient to UM practitioners, including Mr Benhayon.
The professional standards committee found that Dr Kim, who told the patient that "deep-seated grief is a major driving factor in lung disease", failed to disclose his ties to UM to the patient or explain there was "no clinical evidence" its treatments worked.
UQ confirmed Dr Kim also holds an academic title as a senior lecturer.
He is one of three members of UQ's faculty of medicine who have publicly promoted UM, which University of NSW medical educator Professor John Dwyer has called a "cult" that could put its followers' health and wellbeing at risk.
Last month, the ABC revealed UQ had begun an academic misconduct probe into studies by faculty researcher Christoph Schnelle and eight other UM promoters.
Schizophrenia diagnosis published online
In a separate case last month, a former UM client's full name, image and schizophrenia diagnosis were published on a webpage run by UM's "facts team".
It appeared weeks after the man wrote an online blog under a pseudonym in which he criticised Universal Medicine, while being open about his diagnosis.
"I was preparing for a job interview and wanted to know what a possible employer finds when he googles my name," he said.
"Finding UM's article was shocking. My privacy in respect to that diagnosis is very important. I'm worried about not finding a job because of that."
Former Queensland mental health commissioner Lesley van Schoubroeck said it was "entirely inappropriate for any organisation, particularly one purporting to be a health organisation, to publicly reveal identifying information of anyone's diagnosis, be it mental health or physical health".
"It's certainly the case that people with schizophrenia suffer stigma and discrimination in the workplace and in the community," she said.
The UM "facts team", which responds to those who publicly criticise the organisation, includes former legal academic Alison Greig.
Her husband, Brisbane barrister Charles Wilson, was also on the "facts team" until last year, but was not part of it when the man's details were published.
UM has denied it is a cult, citing the large number of health professionals among its membership.
the range of individuals who can be attracted to cults
Eight doctors have publicly endorsed UM, along with four dentists and 17 allied health practitioners across pharmacy, physiotherapy and psychology.
Mr Benhayon encourages followers to adopt strict lifestyle measures around diet, sleep, sex and even books and music.
Dr Kim has written online about consulting Mr Benhayon over the underlying cause of a minor eye condition.
"I felt that there was a deeper meaning to this so I consulted Serge Benhayon who generously offered his Reading (sic)," he said.
Professor Dwyer, a former head of immunology at Yale University, said it was "fascinating just to see the range of individuals who can be attracted to cults and this sort of thinking".
He said health professionals reprimanded in relation to UM had been given "very wishy-washy-type penalties and to date there's evidence that they ... continue to support Universal Medicine".
Mr Wilson declined to comment. Ms Greig and Dr Kim did not respond to the ABC.
Mr Benhayon told the ABC: "I've got nothing to say to you".
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