Health & Harmony
By. Dr. Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, OIM
Medical Deduction for Alternative Treatments Allowed
A recent bench opinion rendered by Special Tax Court Judge Lewis R. Carluzzo dealt a stunning victory to the Integrative Healthcare community and the people it serves.
The Tax Court aptly defined Integrative Medicine using an accepted definition from Duke University. “Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances, it uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimal health.”
The opinion went on to say:” The word ‘heal’ in the above definition is critical here, as an expense paid by a taxpayer for ‘healing services’ directed towards any structure of the body may be deducted as a medical expense.”
A summary of this case reveals the iconoclastic thinking of Judge Carluzzo as he respects and rules in favor of the petitioner’s right to free choice of the practitioner and the practice of her own choice. In this case, the petitioner suffered from at least one spinal disease and had received only partial and temporary relief from chiropractic care. Her medical doctor suggested surgery with the caveat that it may not be a complete success and carried risks of possibly worsening the condition. He recommended integrative medical care as per the above definition.
Stunning recognition was given to the individual’s right to choose. The opinion states,” concerned that conventional treatments for her condition posed too much risk, or would be ineffective, Petitioner subscribed to various forms of treatment from four individuals, none of whom would be commonly recognized as a conventional medical caregiver . The methods Petitioner subscribed to might be termed “alternative medicine”. “Nothing in the statute or the underlying regulation requires that the treatment received by a taxpayer be furnished by an individual licensed to practice medicine in any particular discipline, or that the services or treatments be provided in person rather than remotely, or that the treatment be successful, or that the treatment be universally accepted as effective”, the opinion went on to clarify.
Without prejudice, the court continued,” We are more persuaded by Petitioner’s belief as to the effectiveness of the treatments she paid for than we are by our own impression as to those treatments. “ Testimony to the fact that her condition greatly improved with these treatments was entered. Judge Carluzzo acknowledged the difficult task of taking into account “not only what is known but what is less understood as well; namely, the role that an individual’s state of mind plays in the treatment of the individual’s disease.”
Thus the conclusion brilliantly considered the Petitioner’s sincere belief (emphasis mine) that the expenses she paid for the treatments she received were directed to cure or mitigate the symptoms of her spinal disease. The Court recognized and allowed that expenses paid for “alternative medical” treatments can be deducted as a medical expense under section 213 of the IRS tax code.
Sherman Cohn, Esq., Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, a recognized expert in alternative medicine commented that, in his opinion, “the decision of this single Tax Court Judge, with the caveats he put in, by itself is not enough to say that the law has changed. There is no requirement that IRS follow this decision except (at most) for the person(s) involved in this case - assuming IRS takes no appeal. “
The tipping point in healthcare has clearly been reached when a judge, any judge in the conventional system is able to identify both the elements of integrative medicine, its effects on body, mind and spirit as well as rule in favor of personal freedom and sincerely held beliefs. This is precedent setting for our industry. It is time now to make noise about this to your legislators, to ensure that personal freedoms are upheld in every area of healthcare.
Dr. Nancy Gahles is an integrative and holistic doctor and an Ordained Interfaith Minister.
Dr. Gahles is a recognized expert in the field of integrative medicine and health policy. She is a Director of the Board of Integrative Health Policy Consortium, member of the Federal Policy Committee, freelance health policy journalist and newspaper columnist. . She owns and operates Health & Harmony Wellness Center and Spirit of Love~The Rockaway Sangha in Belle Harbor, NY. www.drnancygahles.com