For weeks now, stories have been circulating the internet about five holistic health providers who were mysteriously killed or died in untimely and undisclosed ways. Of course, the stories around them have played up the “mystery” aspect, and have had corresponding articles heavily implying that it is all a part of a vast, dark conspiracy by either “big pharma,” the FDA, or both. Here at The Scientific Parent, we rolled our collective eyes at the claim, especially as we dug into the articles.

First, to entertain that these claims might be real despite the total lack of evidence, you’re going to have to suspend disbelief. You would have to believe that the alleged entity known by conspiracy theorists as “Big Pharma” with its myriad of pharmaceutical drugs at its disposal would choose to kill these providers violently and poorly dispose of their remains. You’re would also need to believe that multiple large pharmaceutical companies, which are fierce competitors with one another, would come together as the mythical super-drug-beast known as “Big Pharma” to kill five providers whose combined work would not impact their revenues at all, removing any financial motive whatsoever.

We aim to be judgment-free on this site. Though we disagree with it, we can understand why some parents are afraid to vaccinate their children, why some parents want to share a bed with their newborn, and why parents avoid discussing difficult and essential topics with their children. But how anyone could believe this conspiracy theory? We’re raising an eyebrow of judgment. Say what?

Nevertheless,  in our Scientific Parent tradition, people have asked us this question, so we’re going to dig into the stats and the individual claims to see if there’s any evidential merit to them.

First, let’s go over the claims:

  • Five holistic providers have died mysteriously over a month and a half;
  • They are:
    • Jeff Bradstreet, MD, was a controversial provider who was under investigation by the FDA for treating children with autism with a dangerous and unapproved chemotherapy drug. His body was found in the Rocky Broad River in Chimney Rock, NC with an alleged self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Dr. Bradstreet was found dead shortly after authorities executed a search warrant on his offices in relation to his use of the unapproved drug on children.
    • Bruce Hedendal was a chiropractor with a small practice in Florida. He was found dead, at the age of 67 in his car, and police say that no foul play is suspected.
    • Baron Holt was a chiropractor with a local practice in North Carolina. His practice was low-key and though he was young at age 33, no cause of death has been released.
    • Teresa Sievers, MD provided medical care to the transgender community but used a holistic approach. She was brutally murdered in her home and authorities say her death was not random. While there have been no arrests in the case, they allege that she knew her murderer.
    • Lisa Riley, MD was an emergency room physician in Georgia with no ties to the holistic medical community. Like Dr. Teresa Sievers, police say someone known to Dr. Riley brutally murdered her, allegedly her husband. Her husband, a former boxer, was previously charged with attempted murder of his former girlfriend by shooting her in the head.

We don’t think that doctors Riley and Sievers should be considered part of the alleged big pharma murder conspiracy, since they’re both traditional doctors with little to no connections to the holistic community. Frankly we’re not quite sure how their names were associated with the conspiracy rumors in the first place. But, we warned you, this is going to take a leap of disbelief (and an utter disregard for regression analysis) to get you over the proverbial finish line.

Does this sound like an abnormal pattern of deaths? First we’d need to establish what “normal” would be. As much of holistic medicine is unregulated, it’s difficult if not impossible to get clear statistics on how many individuals are in practice and what their attrition rate is, either by death, disability, retirement, or leaving the business. However, we do have solid statistics on those type of attrition rates for traditional doctors (MDs and DOs), so we’re going to use that as our fuzzy baseline average for the holistic realm for the purposes of this article.

It may shock you to discover that traditional doctors die from murder or suicide at a much, much higher rate than the general population. We were surprised too – it seems awful, given the level of care and healing these people aim to do. Including both MDs and DOs there are currently 904,556 active primary care and specialist physicians in the US. Of those, approximately 400 will commit suicide each year. In fact, physicians kill themselves at a rate 70% higher than non-physicians. This sadly means that eight doctors commit suicide every week.

It’s a bit harder to get statistics on physicians that are murdered each year for a number of reasons (publicity, visibility, nature of the crime, investigations, etc.). But we do know that over the span of a decade the average is that approximately 15 health care providers are killed in workplace shootings each year. That’s at least one murder a month.

Dwight Conspiracy MemeWith that said, even if we consider all five individuals named in the holistic-doctor-Big Pharma-FDA murder conspiracy plot statistically using the MD-DO statistics are our baseline, their collective death rate contribution is not an anomaly. Though individually, it’s terribly tragic and sad.

In the cases of Baron Holt and Bruce Hedendal, no cause of death has been released. Nothing abnormal there – coroners don’t typically publicly release a cause of death without the next of kin’s permission unless it’s in the public interest. So not having a publicly released cause of death falls far short of “mysterious,”and more along the lines of family privacy.

When examining the circumstances around each death it seems that only Dr. Bradstreet’s family is protesting his death as something other than what is being claimed by authorities. The whole thing sounds like a tragic and awful affair. But we can understand why Dr. Bradstreet’s family views his death as suspicious, since the practitioner spent most of his career in opposition to established medical research. Considering the implications of what Dr. Bradstreet was doing – using medication unapproved in the US and illegally obtained on the black market for use on children with autism, without approval – the investigation had the potential to not only end his career, but also put him in jail for a long time. That could potentially be enough pressure to make someone emotionally break down and consider suicide as a way out, as authorities have ruled it.

We also think that if anyone was murdered by Big Pharma, there would be more stealth and cunning, and also some sort of undetectable pharmaceutical way to do it. As conspiracies go, these data points are all too inconsistent to look like a trend.

Regardless of the circumstances for these five individuals, we feel for each of them, their families and loved ones. But ultimately, we don’t think a conspiracy is at work.


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Categories: Science 101 + Mythbusting