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Diploma mill

Diploma mill 'doctor' sued over teen's suicide attempt

Monday, October 22, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: diploma mill, doctor, suicide

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(NaturalNews) As we've reported here at NaturalNews in the past, diploma mills - fake universities and colleges that sell mail-order "degrees" - are increasingly causing irreparable harm across a widening swath of society, as more and more phony PhDs and other counterfeit "experts" cheat their way to the top.

Such deceit nearly turned tragic in a recent case involving a teenager who was being "treated" by a counterfeit psychologist who, if the court finds the assertions in the complaint accurate, should receive the maximum punishment under the law.

Sally and Shawn James have filed suit against Alexander Panio, Jr., and his Adolescent and Family Institute of Colorado, for providing their son, Taylor, "abusive, fraudulent and harmful" treatment.

According to the suit, which was filed in federal district court in Denver, Panio, who purchased a doctorate degree from an "unaccredited diploma mill" - the now-defunct California Western University - may have committed a "laundry list" of violations. The most onerous allegation in the 41-page complaint is a charge that when Taylor threatened to commit suicide, an AFIC employee told his mother to let him go ahead and try.

"Panio has been defrauding the world at large in regard to his academic background and credentials for decades," says the complaint. "As early as 1970, before he purchased his Ph.D. certificate, Panio referred to himself as 'Dr. Panio' and expected others to address him that way. Panio also occasionally fraudulently used an 'MD' suffix to give others the appearance that he had a medical degree."

Continuing, the complaint says that Panio tends to refer to himself "exclusively" by his false title - doctor, or Dr. Panio, and makes his patients and staff refer to him in the same manner, "even though he is not a doctor, did not go to medical school, did not go to psychology school, is not licensed and has a PhD from an unaccredited diploma mill."

High-pressure sales tactics

The James' allege that Panio purchased his credentials in a bid to defraud and deceive patients and their insurance providers.

"Panio did not undergo the kinds of rigorous education, class attendance, participation, internships, training, testing, dissertation work or licensure required of real PhD recipients or clinical psychologists" under established clinical and legal requirements, said the complaint.

The James family is also suing Panio's wife, Mary, who allegedly operates the clinic along with her husband, Dr. Edra Weiss, the medical director of AFIC who treated Taylor, a registered nurse the complaint did not name but who "acted as Taylor's psychiatric provider" at the clinic, Jeffrey Nelson, a licensed professional counselor and AFIC's director of therapy, Scott Juarez, also a licensed professional counselor who was Taylor's primary therapist, and Jane Jordan, a licensed practical nurse who also worked at the facility.

In addition to the "abusive, fraudulent" treatment, the James' allege Panio and his employees "use high-pressure sales tactics, including advising families... a) If the troubled teen is not immediately admitted to AFIC for residential that he or she will die or go to prison ... c) AFIC is unique in its approach and has a success rate of over 80 percent ... e) The troubled child's problems are caused by the parents, who can no longer handle the child and also need AFIC's help; and f) The immediate admission to AFIC is a life or death decision that must be made there and now."

The couple says Taylor was diagnosed with a mood disorder and Asperger's Syndrome by a real psychologist when he was in the sixth grade (he recently turned 18). He also suffered from depression.

Horrific pattern of abuse

Panio misrepresented himself from the outset, according to the complaint.

"During the intake therapy session, Panio told the James family that he was a doctor. He spent considerable time boasting about his degrees and his background and specifically told the James family that he had worked for former First Lady, Mrs. (Jimmy) Carter," it said.

"During the course of this initial therapy session, Panio also told the James family that Taylor James had been misdiagnosed by prior doctors and that Taylor James did not have bipolar disorder or Asperger's, but rather he had Borderline Personality Disorder."

Other horrific claims made by the Jones' include:

-- During one session, Panio told the couple they were horrible parents, in front of their son.

-- Upon admission to the clinic, Panio ordered Taylor taken off all his meds, "without appropriate medical or psychiatric consultation and without sufficient information or basis."

-- Defendants Weiss and Jordan, shortly after admission, examined "Taylor's penis and scrotum," at one point also measuring his penis, an examination that "was conducted without informed consent and for no reasonable medical purpose."

-- Panio and his staff told the James' their son's previous diagnoses were incorrect and that he was "simply making symptoms up, was attention-seeking and manipulating his parents."

-- Panio allegedly asked Sally and Shawn James to lie about their son's true condition, making it sound worse for purposes of insurance reimbursement.

-- Staff, including Panio and Nelson, "repeatedly called Taylor outrageous and demeaning names and slurs."

Juarez, the complaint states, told Sally James to let her son follow through on his threat to "take pills and drink nail polish remover," because trying to stop him "would only further encourage (his) attention-seeking and manipulative behavior."

"Taylor did attempt to overdose on pills and ingested nail polish remover. Mrs. James took him to the emergency room at Platte Valley Hospital where they pumped his stomach and transported him to The Children's Hospital, where he was admitted for a one-month stay," says the complaint.





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