Thirty-three-year-old Shawn Blazsek was devastated when the director of the memory-loss center he went to told him he has Alzheimer's disease, a condition affecting up to 5 million Americans as of 2013 and is expected to affect about 14 million by 2050 in the absence of an effective cure.
More Than 50 Misdiagnosed Patients
Another test, however, showed he did not have the neurodegenerative disease. It also turned out that Sherry-Ann Jenkins, who misdiagnosed him of the neurological disorder, did not have a medical or psychology license required to give such diagnosis.
Blazsek is now one of over 50 individuals who are suing Jenkins and the owner of the now-closed Toledo Clinic Cognitive Center of the Toledo Clinic for telling them they had Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, despite not having the condition. Most of the complainants are now aware that the diagnosis is not true but a few are still awaiting confirmation that they have been misdiagnosed.
Some of the patients said that they have spent months going through treatment and making plans for their final years. Some took what's supposed to be their last special trip and some made drastic decisions quitting their jobs and selling their possessions. One killed himself.
$1 Million In Damages
The lawsuits each seeks more than $1 million in damages. The patients also sued the Toledo Clinic saying that it should have been aware that Jenkins lacked the training and credentials to treat and diagnose patients.
The lawyers of both sides would not reveal if there is a criminal investigation but the court records show the Ohio Medical Board already talked with some patients.
Jenkins's lawyer would not answer questions regarding the clinic, which shut down in early 2016. The attorney neither disputed that Jenkins was licensed but denied the other allegations..
Nearly all of the patients who were diagnosed by Jenkins started seeing her after suffering traumatic brain injuries or experiencing cognitive issues. Some of the patients described her as compassionate and easy to talk with. She also ended therapy sessions by asking her patients to give her a hug.
At her suggestions, there were patients who appeared in articles that tout the benefits of the holistic treatments she offered including daily doses of coconut oil and memory games. Patients also said that she was against getting a second opinion.
To date, no treatment that can reverse the condition is available for Alzheimer's patients. Experts also question the effectiveness of using coconut oil for the condition.
"There have been some claims that coconut oil could be used as a treatment, or even a cure, for Alzheimer's disease. However, there is currently not enough experimental evidence to back up these claims," the Alzheimer's Society said in a statement.
Driven By Greed
David Zoll, who represents the complainants, said that Jenkins was likely motivated by greed as several patients were overbilled.
"Many times she would diagnose the whole family," Zoll said.
The lawsuit claims that Jenkins who has a doctorate degree in physiological science did not have the authorization to order medical tests and that her husband, a licensed doctor and partner in the Toledo clinic, signed off in the tests and at times was listed as the referring physician on billing even though he did not see any of the patients.