(NATURAL NEWS) – Once at the top of his game, Dr. David Heimbach has fallen from grace — like so many liars and frauds before him in the scientific and medical communities.
One of the country’s top burn surgeons, Heimbach was a perfect person to recruit as a star witness in trials. He provided often dramatic testimony about babies being scorched to death in furniture fires — testimony that to convince lawmakers that they should not allow the scaling back of flame retardant use in children’s products.
The problem, however, is that the stories he told weren’t true. Oh, and that one organization found to be backing him was a front group for the chemical industry. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, which has been chronologically reporting on Heimbach’s fall from grace, the former star witness has now surrendered his medical license as he faces disciplinary charges in the state of Washington:
State officials had alleged that Heimbach, whose activities were exposed in a 2012 Tribune investigation, fabricated testimony and falsely presented himself as an unbiased burn expert when, in fact, he had been paid $240,000 for his help.
Heimbach and manufacturers have defended flame retardants, which are added to furniture cushions, despite research that shows they don’t provide any meaningful protection from home fires.
‘I DIDN’T WANT TO PRACTICE ANYMORE ANYWAY ‘
The disgraced surgeon’s decision to give up his license is a stunning fall from grace. For a quarter-century, Heimbach was chief of the burn center at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. In addition, he was a longtime surgery professor at the University of Washington. He once received an award from the Dalai Lama for his care of burn victims around the globe. That said, he was unable to dodge the most egregious charge against him: fibbing to lawmakers about babies who had allegedly suffered fatal burns while sleeping on cushioning that did not contain chemical flame retardants; those infants simply never existed. Giving up his license means that Heimbach will avoid further penalties, like a fine.
“For a doctor to lose his license is a huge blow — and a sorrowful day,” Suzanne Mager, attorney for Washington’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission, which brought the charges, told the paper. “Dr. Heimbach was truly world renowned for the good things that he had done.”
Earlier this year, Heimbach told authorities that he had retired from the hospital and from teaching, that he no longer practiced medicine and had relocated to Hawaii. In an email to the Tribune, the surgeon said he was not fighting the disciplinary moves, because he did not have any intention of renewing his license.
“Fighting back would require lawyers and probably several trips back to Seattle, and might well accomplish the same result . In nearly 50 years of practice I have never been subject to a lawsuit or any discipline. I am sorry this whole business ever occurred,” he wrote.
The paper’s investigative series, entitled “Playing with Fire,” initially prompted the disciplinary charges. An investigation that led to the charges mirrored the findings in the paper’s investigation:
The Tribune reported how Heimbach’s testimony was part of a campaign of deception by industry to promote the use of flame retardants — harmful chemicals that migrate from furniture and wind up in the bodies of adults and children.
‘I DON’T BELIEVE I MISREPRESENTED ANY OF THE ISSUES’
In an earlier interview with the paper, Heimbach said his testimony was only meant to be anecdotal, and that in any event, he “wasn’t under oath.” Later, through his lawyer, he said he had changed some facts to protect patient privacy. In its charges, the Washington state commission cited Heimbach’s work for the group Citizens for Fire Safety, which the Tribune discovered was simply a front group that was controlled by three of the largest makers of flame retardants. As states considered legislation that banned or limited the use of the retardants, the group stoked the public’s fear of fire and downplayed any health risks linked to the chemicals, which include cancer risks, neurological deficits, impaired fertility and developmental problems. Heimbach told the commission that he still believes that flame retardants are useful and that his testimony was sincere.
“I don’t believe I misrepresented any of the issues,” he wrote, “and I had no intention of misleading anyone.”