A woman offering her services for pain management to members of the Vashon community is currently under investigation by the Washington State Department of Health for practicing without a license, after several islanders filed complaints.
Bethany Barnes says she practices naprapathy — a type of alternative health treatment involving manipulation of the connective tissue and adjoining structures intended to facilitate recuperative and regenerative body processes. Barnes, who describes herself as a physician, was notified by the health department of the investigation on Dec. 19 and has until Jan. 3 to respond.
In an interview with The Beachcomber, Barnes said that the practice of naprapathy is not required to be licensed in Washington, and that she doesn’t believe she’s done anything wrong.
“I didn’t come here to make a big, disheveled mess,” she said. “I’m just trying to stand on my feet. I’m not trying to con anyone.”
By “come here,” Barnes was referring to her recent relocation from Los Angeles, where she worked in a practice called “Bethany Barnes Medical – Los Angeles Pain Management Doctors, Allergy, Immunology & Toxicology Clinic” offering naprapathy treatments and “integrative medicine,” according to her website at drbethanybarnes.com.
It was, in fact, this website, that those who filed the complaints with the health department said made them uneasy enough to question Barnes’ qualifications.
And, it all started on Facebook.
Islander Dale Greenfeld explained that posts about Barnes, advertising her services, were appearing in various Vashon Facebook groups.
“I saw ‘pain management’ … I’m always drawn to that,” she said. “I’ve had spinal surgery and suffer from chronic pain for various reasons. I’m always looking for potential solutions, and I see practitioners both on and off the island.”
Greenfeld said that she was about to call Barnes’ Seattle-area phone number, which was included in the posts, to make an appointment, but she did not go through with it when she realized that the “ads” she was seeing were not posted by Barnes herself, and thought that to be odd. Citing an “inquisitive mind,” Greenfield went to Barnes’ website to find out more about her.
“I couldn’t find any real credentials,” she said, expressing her opinion of what she found there. “So I posted a response to the ‘ad’ in the Facebook group suggesting that she (Barnes) stop advertising her services.”
As it turned out, Greenfeld was not the first one to make that suggestion, as others in the Facebook group had reportedly done the same.
Barnes, for her part, said that she has an M.D because she attended, and graduated from, medical school in Nicaragua. But she also acknowledged never having practiced medicine in the U.S.
“I decided not to practice as a doctor. I’ve never been board certified,” she explained, “because I am a woman … I was focusing on family. I decided to go into naprapathy instead.”
She also mentioned that she felt that board certification was strictly “political.”
Barnes did make a point of telling The Beachcomber that even though she wasn’t practicing medicine in Los Angeles, at Bethany Barnes Medical — Los Angeles Pain Management Doctors, she did work with “other medical doctors” there. When asked for their names, she declined to answer.
“One did something that was not good,” she said. “I didn’t agree with the choices he made, so I separated myself from him. But I helped many people there.”
According to Barnes and her website, these are her credentials:
• Medical Studies and Clinical Work in Neurology and Pathology with University Autonoma of Nicaragua Medical Hospital—School, H.E.O.D.R.A.
• Doctor of Science awarded by the National Federations of Science, united States of America, 1995, in regard to the two separate and distinctive energies of magnetic frequency applied to biology and human physiology.
• Mentor apprenticeship (for naprapathy) with Dr. Sonia Ebert, M.D., Ph.D., of Exelison University of Medical Therapeutic Sciences of Stockholm, Sweden.
• B.S. course work in biology with University of California — Davis.
There is also a long list of specialties that Barnes says she has experience in — such as orthopedics, neurosurgery, clinical neurology, pain management and sports injury trauma — but does not include any details of where, when or with whom the experience occurred.
Some investigation by The Beachcomber revealed that the “National Federations of Science” does not currently exist, and records of an organization by that name ever existing were not found. There is, however, a Federation of American Scientists, an organization with which a man she said she worked with at the National Federations of Science was once associated. As a federation, the group has conferred honorary degrees upon individuals. The Beachcomber also could not find any record of a Sonia Ebert or the Exelison University in Sweden — all references found for both are from Barnes’ own website.
Barnes stated directly in her interview that she is a member of an organization called the Pan-American Allergy Society, which she also references on her website. A check of the PAAS member roster did not show Barnes as a member, including on its foreign and non-physician affiliate lists.
When asked about the discrepancy, Barnes cited health issues.
“I have been very sick for two years. I’ve had surgeries,” she said. “After being in the hospital for four months it really wipes you out.”
A Los Angeles Yelp review page bearing her photo and claimed by Barnes shows that she has performed services there as an osteopathic physician, a field in which she shows no training or credentials for. A Seattle-based Yelp review page for Barnes lists her as Bethany Barnes M.D., specializing in pain management, naprapathy, osteopathy and structural medicine.
She reiterated that naprapathy is not a practice that requires a license in this state, and that is what she is offering islanders. She also said that she just wants to help people.
And there are some community members (who asked not to be named), several from the group of concerned individuals Greenfeld became a part of, that have been treated by Barnes, and told The Beachcomber via emails that they had no issues with the services they received — one noted that Barnes was “professional and helpful” and that they were impressed with her skills.
But some of these same people remained skeptical and concerned enough about Barnes’ credentials that they filed a complaint with the health department. With a nudge from state Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island), whom the group contacted as well, and Rep. Eileen Cody (D-34th District), the health department opened its investigation.
“My office received emails of concern from community members,” Sen. Nelson said. “And with the information presented, and after consulting with Rep. Cody as we always do in health matters, we felt there was enough valid concern to warrant the (health department) taking a look.”
Cody, a nurse, chairs the state’s Health Care and Wellness Committee.
David Johnson, Public Information Officer for the health department, confirmed that Barnes is under investigation, though Barnes denied it when asked directly.
“I am not under investigation by the state … I have not been contacted by anyone,” she said on Dec. 27. “I haven’t done anything immoral, unethical or out of line.”
Johnson said that the health department notified Barnes of the investigation on Dec. 19.
“The key issue here,” Johnson added, “is that the law may not list naprapathy as one of the practices required to be licensed, but Barnes has purported herself to be a medical doctor. That is the umbrella under which we’re looking at this.”
In a recent response to a job posting on social media, Barnes had this to say: “I am a physician who just relocated to Vashon from another state.”
Johnson said that Barnes is not licensed as a physician in the state of Washington.
While the investigation is ongoing, Barnes has been given until Jan. 3 to respond to the health department. Johnson explained if she does not respond, the department could direct her to cease and desist seeing clients and/or impose fines.
Barnes, who said that she and her husband have left Los Angeles and plan to move to Vashon permanently, stated that she thought it was odd that she was being asked questions about her education and credentials, adding that she believed she’s followed a “traditional” path for a woman in science.
“The truth is stranger than fiction,” she said.