Eatonville, Wash. (CBS SEATTLE) — Washington state investigators allege that a man treating pain and cancer was actually a fraud – and that several patients died under his unlicensed care.
The Washington State Department of Health claims it has enough evidence to prove their case against Sung Min Im and the Cleansing Way treatment center, that lists “juices, herbs, honey, salt mixtures” and “praying to God” as treatment methods. And according to court documents and a KOMO-TV report, the Pierce County Superior Court has agreed, along with records showing that several people died while under Im’s care.
Beverly Siers, a friend of one deceased patient, told KOMO she witnessed treatment that turned out were “acts of doctoring” and “not legal to do,” and said that her friend suffered because “she put her faith in the wrong kind of person.”
But Siers did say that her friend believed in the spiritual, non-medicinal treatment that appears to be the alternative method used at the Cleansing Way clinic.
Cleansingway.org says that Im “has been using the 8 natural remedies for the last 30 years. Instructor Im retired from Practice of Medicine as a Family Practice physician to develop and teach his natural health program.”
Im’s program includes: “juicing and special herbs along with God’s blessing,” going on to note that Im “has improved the quality of life for people who have been suffering from many diseases, including diabetes, lupus, cancer, and leukemia. “We apply sound health and nutritional principles, found in God’s Word, the Bible, along with a knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry, gained through years of medical practice,” reads the website.
Among things patients are asked to bring to treatment are a “Bible, notebook, pen and pencil.”
And treatment was not cheap as court records show one woman was billed $69,600.
In 2005, the state’s health department says that Im signed an agreed order to cease-and-desist the unlicensed practice of medicine and pay a $25,000 fine.
The Cleaning Way website similarly notes: “Instructor Im is not licensed by the State of Washington to practice medicine.”
A state health department statement from March 2013 shows that the department “obtained a temporary restraining order” in Pierce County Superior Court to stop Sung Min from practicing medicine without a license.
The health department’s release continues: “The department believes that Im owns and operates a facility named, The Cleansing Way Seminar Inc. in Eatonville, which is advertised as a health care facility. In its complaint, the department alleges that Im refers to himself as, ‘Dr. Im,’ and uses the designation M.D. with his name.”
“Im doesn’t hold a medical license in Washington. Im allegedly conducted physical exams and treated two patients diagnosed with cancer using tea, juice, sea salt, and honey at The Cleansing Way facility,” the health department states.
At the bottom of the Cleansing Way website is a second treatment disclaimer: “Cleansing Way is not a medical facility. Your medical care must remain with your primary or specialist physician. We do not perform any medical procedures, treatments or anything else related to medical practice. We are an educational institution and teach lifestyle changes in accordance with the Word of God.”
The facility has been gated and closed off, but KOMO was told by phone that Im is not guilty of practicing medicine without a license, or any of the other state health allegations.