State notifies Cass of cease-and-desist order related to practicing medicine without license

Janelle Cass

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has notified Edmonds business owner Janelle Cass it intends to issue a cease-and-desist order related to allegations that she operates a hyperbaric chamber – which is used to treat multiple medical conditions – without a license to practice medicine.

Cass, who unsuccessfully ran for the Edmonds City Council and Washington State Senate, owns Ohana Hyberbarics and Massage in downtown Edmonds. The business website describes hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) as “a relaxing wellness activity that works by gently increasing the atmospheric pressure around you. Oxygen saturates the fluids and tissues of your body which effectively reduces inflammation, stimulates tissue repair, boosts the immune system and increases stamina.”

Ohana’s website also states that the oxygen therapy “has been demonstrated in several clinical studies to enhance the body’s innate ability to repair and regenerate. It is used as an adjunct therapy to complement and enhance the healing process in both chronic and acute conditions.”

In a DOH news release issued Dec. 22 regarding disciplinary actions against health providers statewide, the department reported the notice of intent to issue a cease-and-desist order to Cass through its Unlicensed Practice Program. The notice states that Cass “doesn’t hold a credential to practice as a medical doctor but allegedly provided hyperbaric oxygen therapy to patients at a business she owns in Edmonds.”

The notice signals the health department’s intent to issue a cease-and-desist order, but Cass will be given an opportunity to respond prior to any such order being issued. The notice is not related to her business license, so Cass can continue to operate the business, DOH spokesperson Katie Pope said.

The order alleges that Cass “does not currently hold a credential to practice as a medical doctor in the state of Washington and has never held such a credential.” Under state law, a person is practicing medicine if he or she “offers or undertakes to diagnose, cure, advise, or prescribe for any human disease, ailment, injury, infirmity, deformity, pain or other condition, physical or mental, real or imaginary, by any means or instrumentality.” State law also directs DOH to investigate complaints concerning  practice by unlicenses persons of a profession or business for which a license is required. (See more here.)

If a final determination is made that a person is engaging in unlicensed practice, the DOH can issue the cease-and-desist order, with civil fines also possible.

Under state law, Cass may request a hearing with DOH to contest the charges, and Cass said she has done that, with a scheduling conference set for early next year.

“There is a misunderstanding regarding mild, wellness-level hyperbarics and what is provided in hospital settings,” Cass said via email. The hearing (known as an adjudicative proceeding) “will lay the path for me to inform the board about what we do at Ohana. I am looking forward to the opportunity to provide information and education to the DOH through that process as there many businesses just like mine throughout the state,” Cass added.

The Ohana Hyperbarics website notes that Cass, an Air Force Academy graduate who served as a bioenvironmental engineer in the U.S. Air Force, “has converted her engineering skills, knowledge of toxic exposures and health physics towards the use of hyperbaric therapy to promote healing.  The website says Cass’s training is endorsed by the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine, ANDI International (described as an international educational agency for hyberbarics), Hyperbaric Medicine International and the International Hyperbaric Association.

— By Teresa Wippel

 

 

 

  1. Oxygen is medicine ask any nurse or doctor. I don’t know what practice was being done but our society is full of health ideas using questionable practices and medicine. I see this as more of consequence to becoming involved in governance than a possible harm.
    In a world that can promote transgender medicine and surgery this is a overreach.

    1. Oxygen is an element in the periodic table. Let’s not confuse that with medicine.

      MyEdmondsNews comments are not a platform for transphobic trolling. Let’s not overreach to save a failed political candidate. I am sure she is deeply disturbed not only by this news but also by your seriously regrettable, demonizing comment. On Christmas, no less! I will be praying for you with my family. :-<

  2. I think the state needs to change their definition of medicine…“offers or undertakes to diagnose, cure, advise, or prescribe for any human disease, ailment, injury, infirmity, deformity, pain or other condition, physical or mental, real or imaginary, by any means or instrumentality.” With this definition my mom, yoga instructor, gym trainer, and minister would be getting a call from the state.

  3. With the increased awareness about side effects from the controlled and prescribed and authorized pharmaceuticals and treatments, it begs the question, what could the possible harm be from mild hyperbaric support? I have personally used mild hyperbaric to accelerate healing from profound structural injury. I have found it to be extremely helpful and while it is not a Medical procedure, it certainly fits the practice of “first do no harm”. I trust that both this article and the inquiry will bring more viable information about this highly useful and beneficial tool.

  4. Having been a diving medical officer, I have been dubious for some time about the purported therapy at this facility. There are proven benefits for proper hyperbaric care for diving related accidents and for a few non-diving conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning and wound care, but I doubt any local “chamber “ could achieve therapeutic success. KOK, MD, MPH

  5. I’ve used hyperbaric therapy at Ohana Hyperbarics a number of times, and I found the sessions to be relaxing and re-energizing. I intend on going back. I also know Janelle Cass to be a dedicated member of the Edmonds community, a valued member of the Board of Directors of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, and businessperson of intelligence, advanced education, and deep integrity.
    The actions of the DOH and it’s over-broad definition of medicine calls into question other forms of complimentary therapies, such as acupuncture, reflexology, hypnotherapy, and the like. They serve a purpose. (See https://www.swedish.org/services/pain-services/pain-management-guide/complementary-therapies-for-pain)
    Being an informed adult citizen, I can tell the difference between “traditional” medicine and therapeutic treatments. We are not dopes.
    Having some knowledge of the way the state works, underfunded and under-staffed, I strongly suspect this action against Janelle is the result of a complaint, not of a broad review by the DOH.
    She’s going to need a good lawyer and it’s going to cost her a ton of money. I hope the DOH backs off.

  6. Curious that Ms. Cass has run her Ohana Hyperbaric business for almost four years and only after challenging a Democrat stallwart for a Senate seat does the State of Washington issue a cease and desist order. Retribution from the D’s in control of the state bureaucracy ?

    Under the states broad definition of the practice of medicine every athletic gym operator should be worried if they tout the benefits of their services to address any “ailment, injury, infirmity, deformity, or pain” of their clients using hot tubs, swimming pools, steam showers and exercise equipment to attain health benefits.

  7. Thank you, Theresa for the accurate reporting.
    Call me callous because of my 12 years on Council, but it’s unfortunate that “anonymous tips” are sometimes targeted towards candidates that then cause a kerfuffle of negative press. I know that the complaint came while she was running in the local Edmonds race and had won the Primary. Really good timing, don’t you think! I have had many similar incidents of negative stories or sensionalism based on fodder occur during my various bids for my Council seat and the truth will eventually be known. So, Janelle …. this too shall pass.

    I have visited Ohana Hyberbarics and have done a couple of sessions for my sciatica and after three sessions it did help. My first session included Janelle providing me with details, literature, examples and reasons why she decided to become a minority business owner to promote an alternative method of healing. Based on the integrity of this woman, her educational background, her prolific career in the Air Force as well as, how she treats her family and our community – it makes me willing to wait for the entire story regarding this anonymous complaint and subsequent remedy or decisions.

  8. As a registered nurse with 50 years experience I know the push back to alternative therapies from the medical profession, and its traditional approach to health. There is a place for alternative therapies. Solutions should not be limited to pills – some additive – invasive surgeries which sometimes do more harm than good. I am forever grateful that many years ago I had caesarean section available to me. Likewise, when I unexpectedly had my disc slip from between my L4 and L5, I had the good fortune to be referred to Dr Mark Shelly, Chiropractor, of Olympic Spine Solutions in Mt Lk Terrace. To say he saved my life would be going too far. But to say he saved the quality of my life is totally accurate. Without him I most likely would have had surgery which I know too well from my many years in critical care that these type of surgeries usually require further surgery. Today I am totally pain free and completely mobile and unrestricted in every way. Are we saying that taking vitamin D, C, magnesium, yoga, swimming, pilates require a medical license to prescribe?

    Continued in my follow-up reply

  9. There was a time during my critical care nursing that I carried on my medicine tray, syringes with anitbiotics, iron, pills for sleep, nausea, blood pressure, pain and an ounce of whiskey for some patients (prescribed by MD).

    I visited Ohana Hyperbarics on several occasions. My MD and I were considering surgery for my sinuses. I also was having breathing difficulty (asthma). Ohana Hyperbarics helped with both these issues. I avoided surgery. In addition, it also helped with the pain after Dr Shelly got my disc into place, but was still experiencing pain a while longer. Both therapies helped me through this very difficult time in my life.

    This compliant to the DOH really strikes me as a “hit job”. I do hope the DOH drops this dubious complaint. And whoever filed this complaint, you have done our community a grave disservice. If you felt compelled and forthright to file this complaint, please identify yourself and let us all applaud your bravery.

  10. The FTC previously send a C&D letter.
    https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/ftc_gov/pdf/2022-02-22%20DAP%20Ohana%20Hyperbarics.pdf

    Current claims on the Ohana website in the testimonials section, including one about HBOT as a treatment for Parkinson’s, are also subject to the FTC’s substantiation requirement, which also gives rise to a violation of state law (RCW 19.86..) The FTC does not require complaints before opening an investigation. Nor does DOH. Both periodically do “sweeps” of specific types of advertising claims and industries. As a former prosecutor for a regulatory agency that investigated these types of claims, I can say that the businesses that were investigated were run by folks of many different political persuasions including those on the left.

  11. The DOH Is just doing it’s job. Lots of over reation here. Ms. Cass’s response comment was the best. She will explain her business and what she claims it will do. If she claims it cures Parkinsons (which she won’t) she will be sanctioned. If she claims it might make you more comfortable, she will be fine. Simple stuff, not a hit job scandal.

  12. The definition of Practice of Medicine under Washington State Law, i.e., “Under state law, a person is practicing medicine if he or she “offers or undertakes to diagnose, cure, advise, or prescribe for any human disease, ailment, injury, infirmity, deformity, pain or other condition, physical or mental, real or imaginary, by any means or instrumentality” can appy to many other forms of treatment performed or prescribed by non physicians. Certainly this could include massge therapy, yoga, pilates, meditation and many other therapies and programs that purport to relieve physical and emotional problems, not to mention a myriad of over the counter “medications’ including aspirin; even Alcoholics Anonymous and Botox injections in beauty salons could fit into this category.
    So unfortunately this action against Ms. Cass strongly appears to be politically motivated.

  13. If this is a political hit (with no concrete evidence to speak of) her political enemies are pretty dumb. So far she’s gotten a chance for free advertising of her business and unpaid and unsolicited positive testimonials. With enemies like that you don’t need friends. I’m thinking about going in for a couple hits myself when I get home.
    .

  14. I moved to Edmonds 18 months ago and was thrilled to find that Ohana Hyperbarics offered their services so close by to where I now live. It’s a huge asset to this community. Diagnosed (by my PHYSICIAN, not Ms. Cass) with severe degenerative arthritis in my lumbar spine, and having spoken with my PHYSICIAN about alternative therapies, hyperbarics among others, and knowing that there are no downsides or risks, I decided to try it. Ms. Cass is well informed about the potential benefits of hyperbarics and was able to objectively and intelligently discuss this proven technology with me, without making promises or assertions to how I would respond. With hyperbarics as the only variable to my treatment, my former drop-to-my-knees pain has not occurred in nearly a year, my mobility has returned, and I was able to stop taking the strong medications prescribed to me by my doctor. I do not consider myself as a PATIENT to Ms. Cass (as this article wrongly states) but a customer to this local business and a client of the services it offers. I would be bereft if I no longer had this service available to reduce inflammation of my arthritis.

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