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"Nutrition Counselor" Fined for Misconduct

Jane Winterbottom Donigan, 79, a licensed nutrition counselor who owns a health-food store in Boca Raton, Florida, has signed a consent agreement to settle an administrative complaint that she was "guilty of committing an act of . . . misconduct in the practice of dietetics and nutrition." The complaint states that in 1995, Donigan was consulted by a 77-year-old woman who complained of numbness and tingling of her left arm, arthritis in her right hip, acid stomach, incontinence, mitral valve prolapse, rectal pains, neck and low back pain, bladder infection, low energy, intermittent nausea, frequent headaches, memory loss, sinus problems, and poor circulation of the legs. Without communicating with the woman's doctor, Donigan recommended that she take 400 mg of ginkgo biloba per day, an amount higher than the recommended dosage (150 mg). Four days later, the woman was hospitalized with a severe stroke. Donigan, 79, does not have an accredited nutrition credentials but was licensed after being grandfathered by virtue of her "professional experience." Although ginkgo has anticoagulant properties, a connection between the ginkgo and the stroke cannot be established because the stroke could have occurred anyway. However, Donigan failed to comply with Florida's licensing law, which sets documentation standards and mandates medical referral under certain circumstances. The consent agreement requires her to pay a $500 fine, take 10 hours of continuing education courses, and adhere to the standards required by the law.

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