Dr Keith Lasko

I need to complete the chronicle of Keith Alan Lasko, MD, begun last week in my Health Tip, “Pigs At A Trough“, with the story of the physician who wrote, The Great Billion Dollar Medical Swindle some 45 years ago and then seemed to vanish. But completely disappear? Hardly. Based on what I’ve been reading online, it’s a safe bet the legal departments of several medical associations continue to wish he’d just go away for good.

Here’s a quick profile on Dr. Lasko: he emerged, as I and many of my medical school colleagues did, from the middle-class, largely Jewish background of West Rogers Park. Our grandfathers had been Maxwell Street peddlers and junkmen so our fathers could be pharmacists, podiatrists, and small businessmen, so that my generation (compelled by ambitious parents wanting the best for us) could be doctors, dentists, lawyers, and accountants, the four horsemen of Jewish immigrant pride. All this hard work permits the fourth generation–our own kids—to pursue a long menu of life-fulfilling occupations, free to be choreographers, writers, designers, executive chefs, and whitewater rafting guides.

I remember Lasko in both pre-med and med school as a loner: hardworking, intense, definitely very smart. Getting top marks was never an issue for Lasko, but we separated after completing our second year of medical school, and I never saw him in person again. After he got his MD, he had a residency in internal medicine and then a fellowship in cardiology. At this point, according to my internet research, he moved to California and started a practice in Van Nuys.

Lasko Was Ahead of His Time

I once had a link to Dr. Lasko being interviewed on the radio back in 1990, but this has long vanished. I remember he was quite articulate and expressed pretty much the same ideas that investigative journalist Steven Brill would advance years later in his book, “America’s Bitter Pill”. But Brill had publishing credentials and was backed by an enormous amount of incriminating data available online, could easily take on the health care system. Lasko was alone.

Being vocal and opinionated, Lasko’s local hospital in Van Nuys moved quickly to get him out of their lives and out of the medical profession forever. The best way to do that? Come up with some evidence that he’s been irresponsible and negligent (you don’t need patient complaints for this). They joined forces with the state medical board to yank his medical license.

Let me pause here to tell you it’s actually quite difficult for a doctor to totally and permanently lose his or her license to practice medicine. Even if a felony is committed, the license is suspended during incarceration but the physician can reapply for it on release. Actual permanent revocation is rare. Multiple malpractice suits almost never result in revocation. In fact, most doctors who lose their licenses have really hit the skids, having sunk to drug dealer status, using their offices as pill mills to dispense narcotics.

But even in the absence of such egregious behavior, if a group of doctors has an axe to grind and unites against you, it’s curtains.

So the doctors in Lasko’s local hospital, embarrassed by the author’s ubiquitous talk-show appearances blasting their sacred profession, report him “negligent” during his care of nursing home patients, ordering too many tests and unnecessary procedures. Since I’ve been a physician, I have never, ever heard of anyone losing a license for these reasons. Reprimanded, yes. Placed under supervision, yes. Banished, no.

During his defense Lasko argues something like, “Am I here because of my book and my appearances on TV?”, and says “I want my case reviewed by a peer–namely a board-certified internist and cardiologist.”

But when you’re doomed, you’re doomed. And not only does Lasko have his California license revoked, but the California Board notifies the other states Lasko’s licensed in and gets them to revoke his license too, so that within two years of publishing his inflammatory book, Lasko can no longer practice medicine anywhere in the U.S.

Now Begins the Saga of Lasko’s Revenge

Before I start, you need to know something about medical specialties and medical associations. The American Board of Medical Specialties currently recognizes 40 specialties and 89 subspecialties of medicine and surgery from Allergy and Anesthesiology down through Urology. Each has its own board exam for certification and its own professional association for members. There are also dozens and dozens of unrecognized, unofficial specialties, including Anti-Aging Medicine and Environmental Medicine, whose membership is based on common interest rather than specific credentials. The AMA really dislikes these unofficial specialties, probably because it can’t control them.

Lasko, on the other hand, feels contempt for them all, approved or unapproved. To his thinking, the whole bunch is one vast den of thieves.

Of course, anyone–even you–can start any association of any stripe. Put the right paperwork together, submit it to the right registering agencies, and you have your own association. You could even start your own medical association. Go ahead, name it anything you want, send out a mailing to lure some members, collect membership fees, and issue membership cards, certificates, and plaques. You can even award your members new initials after their names. While you’re at it send phony “renewal notices” to hundreds of physicians, hoping that whoever was paying the bills in a busy doctor’s office would glance at the renewal notice and forward the check.

And this became Lasko’s revenge on the medical profession.

From what I’ve gathered, he actually purchased physician names and addresses from the AMA, which is happy to sell this data to anyone with a credit card. Lasko then created literally dozens of new medical associations, sending mass mailings to physicians around the country, inviting them to join such entities as the “American Surgery Association”, the “American Association of Geriatric Physicians”, and even the “American Association of Ethical Physicians”. Dozens of associations, literally dozens. To my mind, his contempt for physicians knew no bounds. If a doctor was willing to pay for a few more initials after his name to impress his patients, Lasko would supply them. 

After all, he was unemployed and very angry.

I’ve thought about this. Who’s the bad guy here? Lasko selling clearly phony certificates and plaques or the doctors who are buying them to impress their patients with credentials they haven’t in the least earned. Lasko might be a con man, but the surgeon certifying membership in “America’s Top Cancer Surgeons” could be really dangerous.

Soon the conventional medical associations got wind of this and exploded, filing cease and desist lawsuits to stop him. But as I read through the lawsuits, the warnings, and the judgments, as fast as he closed one association he’d opened two more. If he was a loose cannon with The Great Billion Dollar Medical Swindle, now he’s a Howitzer. Here’s a warning from the American Board of Internal Medicine (likely he was once a member) listing a couple of his fictional associations.

Moral Outrage

Second guessing Lasko, I think he genuinely felt all professional associations were glorified trade guilds, existing primarily to keep away outsiders. There’s nothing wrong with learning to become a physician, or even establishing standards for credentialing expertise. But when professionals band together to create associations that exclude anyone who thinks outside the box, Lasko objects vociferously. This has been standard operating procedure for the medical profession over the past 100 years. The AMA spent a fortune trying to eliminate chiropractors from the healthcare landscape. It was only after a US Supreme Court order that they gave up and set their sights on midwives and acupuncturists.

If you think things are better in the 21st century, there’s a case being heard right now, the nation’s highest legal apparatus at work deciding whether or not to prevent non-professionals (whatever that means) from engaging in teeth whitening.

Lasko Part Three

The next phase of Dr. Lasko’s life, somebody smarter than me can explain. Sometime in the 1990s, he adds a second title, referring to himself as, “The Reverend Doctor Keith Lasko”. Links begin appearing to a church he’s founded, The Worldwide Ministries of Christ, with an online series of sermons, presented in all-capital-letters, Unabomber fashion, and railing against issues like abortion of babies already born (never explained).

Then, a couple of years later, he adds “Imam” to his name: “Imam Reverend Doctor Keith Lasko, M.D., D.Div.” and moves to Las Vegas, onto a street that sounds out of a porn film, Vivid Violet Avenue. When I last checked, his home, now renamed the Mosque of the Golden Rule, was being foreclosed upon “by allied infidels who want to throw him and his children out in the street as unclean dogs”.

Personally, I would have guessed Lasko was Jewish (Pratt Avenue, West Rogers Park in the ‘60s? What else?), but Jews can become enthusiastic Christian fundamentalists or Muslims just like anyone else. So where is he now? The ever-reliable internet locates him somewhere in Las Vegas, maybe still hanging onto his mosque, still creating and selling memberships in medical associations, closing them down as fast as he loses a court order. Still a Howitzer. In 2014 he filed lawsuits against the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Physicians, the two largest physician organizations after the AMA, accusing them of violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Here is where his 394-page complaint against “a slew of defendants” is dismissed.

I thought I was at a loss about all this, but maybe not. Lasko was morally outraged by what medicine had become. He wrote an angry book. Was drummed from his profession on what look like seriously trumped-up charges (I can find neither a record of a patient complaint against him nor a malpractice suit). Being closed off from his profession, he chose to move earth and its mountains against it, creating non-existent medical associations (remember, he believes the real associations basically exist to support the evils of the profession) and ultimately filing lawsuit after lawsuit hoping that somewhere the chicanery can be exposed.

One medical article after another calls him a “scam artist”, but not one refers to his book or to the brutal ending of his livelihood all those many years ago.

Ultimately, of course, any judgment is up to you. As always, your comments enrich the conversation. Next week, back to regular medical Health Tips!

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

4 thoughts on “THE SAGA OF DR. KEITH LASKO

    Do anyone still doubt natural herbs? I’ve seen the great importance, healing journey and power of natural herbs, diet protocol and the wonderful work they have done in people’s lives by curing them naturally from different problems.. I wonder why people still spend their money on surgeries, antibiotics, drugs or even injections each time they are sick. Natural remedy can cure all kinds of problems including (Kidney stones) (CKD and AKD) ( body odor and Hyperhidrosis) (Hypothyroidism ) (Hyperthyroidism)  ( Bad breath) e.t.c. i have seen it with my own eyes when i came across DR.UWENBOHERBALHOME on youtube..

    mark illguison
    Posted June 12, 2024 at 9:56 am

    Thanks for posting this example of how our medical system quashes critical thinking and innovation. It’s too bad he doesn’t get to read this and know that someone sees what he went through and that the system chewed him up.
    The time I spent teaching medical students and observing clinical rounds with residents and their supervisors showed me how similar the culture is to the MILITARY.

    Margaret Welch
    Posted June 11, 2024 at 9:11 am

    What an awesome read Doc. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as always. LOVE reading your written word. I am a HUGE lover of chiropractic care and believe in acupuncture as you well know.

    Posted June 11, 2024 at 8:35 am

    Bravo to Dr. Edelberg for explaining the career of Dr. Lasko! The “saga” is informative, revelatory, and wry. It would be easy to repeat the charges against Dr. Lasko with embellishments. Dr. Edelberg does the opposite: he shows the hollowness of the charges and their conformist assumptions.

    John Cox
    Posted June 11, 2024 at 8:06 am

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