'Bugs in the Biofilm'


     INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (CN) - A doctor bilked parents for thousands of dollars by claiming that "'bugs' lay dormant in [their child's] body, trapped in her 'biofilm,' and would spring out from time to time," the family claims in court.
     The Sutherland family sued Dr. Carol Ann Ryser and Health Centers of America - Kansas City, in Jackson County Court.
     In fact, the Sutherlands say, Ryser eventually diagnosed the whole family with the same diseases, in virtually identical words, including bugs in their biofilm, and prescribed long lists of unnecessary, and expensive, treatments for all of them.
     The parents, Richard and Caroline Sutherland, say it all began when they took their daughter Megan, then 16, to Ryser in July 2008.
     According to the complaint: "Ryser told the Sutherland family that they needed to move to the Kansas City area for long-term treatment.
     "Dr. Ryser did not perform an adequate or comprehensive physical exam on Megan Sutherland during her initial visit, yet diagnosed her with multiple health problems. Ryser rarely touched Megan at all during years of treatments.
     "Dr. Ryser diagnosed Megan Sutherland during her initial visit with 'Lymes disease' [sic], 'Coagulation-Hyper,' 'Disease of CNS' and 16 other conditions.
     "Dr. Ryser ordered as many as forty vials of blood drawn from Megan Sutherland for testing, and charged plaintiffs for the testing.
     "Dr. Ryser and HCAKC sent the vials of blood to various labs for both mainstream and unusual testing.
     "Prior to getting lab results back, Dr. Ryser told Megan Sutherland and her parents that the needed extensive I.V. drug treatment and other treatment to be completed at HCAKC for a cost of thousands of dollars per month.
     "Dr. Ryser directed Megan Sutherland to have daily intravenous infusions of antibiotics and other fluids for hours at a time at HKAKC. These infusions were of drugs such as Rocephin, Primaxin, Vancomycin, Clindamycin, and Heparin, and alternative substances Ryser refers to as 'antioxidants.'
     "Dr. Ryser directed Megan Sutherland to take as many as fifty pills, medications, and supplements a day in addition to the intravenous treatments. Many of these drugs were narcotics.
     "Dr. Ryser sold supplements and medication directly to plaintiffs, as well as prescribing medications to be purchased elsewhere.
     "The treatments made Megan Sutherland sick.
     "Megan Sutherland did not have any condition that would medically justify the treatment as ordered and carried out by Dr. Ryser and HCAKC.
     "During her treatment, Ryser informed the Sutherlands that Megan was additionally infected with 'bugs' such as organisms babesia, bartonella, borrelia burgdoferi, and rickettsia.
     "Ryser claimed that the 'bugs' lay dormant in Megan's body trapped in her 'biofilm' and would spring out from time to time.
     "Diagnosing additional 'bugs' allowed Ryser to continue her treatment for years, and to continue charging money for it."
     The family claims that the defendants continued "treating" Megan until 2012, and that "Ryser claims by her own dated signature that she treated Megan on October 18, 2012, a date in the future which has not occurred as of the date of filing of this petition."
     But that's not all, the family says: "During the treatment of Megan Sutherland, Ryser informed the entire Sutherland family that they too had likely caught the same 'bugs,' diseases, and conditions as Megan and that each of them would need to be seen by Ryser at HCAKC."
     Accepting Ryser's diagnoses, the family says, they let Ryser and HKAKC begin treating Caroline, then 13, and Katelyn, then 19, in January 2009.
     Connie, the mother, became the defendants' patient in April 2009, and Richard, the father, in June 2009, according to the complaint.
     The complaint describes the diagnoses and treatments for the whole family in virtually identical words as those used for the first patient, Megan - including bugs in their biofilms.
     "During the time that Dr. Ryser and HCAKC were treating Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland and their three daughters and charging them thousands of dollars for these services, medications, and supplements, Dr. Ryser and her husband Michael Ryser, an HCAKC employee, were reporting income of as much as $3.3 million a year," the complaint states. "This income came largely from misdiagnosing and treating the same pet conditions."
     Finally, according to the complaint: "Dr. Ryser informed Connie Sutherland that her husband Richard Sutherland may have contracted Lyme disease through sexual transmission, and that she also could have passed it to her children Katelyn, Megan and Caroline Sutherland while in the womb."
     The Sutherlands seek actual damages and punitive damages for medical negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment, violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, loss of consortium and medical expenses.
     They are represented by Lance Baughman, with Wright, Green & Baughman, of Lee's Summit, Mo.