It’s the ten-year anniversary of the death of Faun Kime’s father in a mysterious mountain climbing accident and The Tomato Effect begins at a trailhead in the high sierras of California. Maps are examined, supplies checked, and backpacks heave-hoed into place. Bristling with nervous energy the group gathered for the expedition hits the trail. Faun has at last mustered the strength to begin an investigation into the circumstances of her father’s death and the head of Search and Rescue has agreed to take her to the spot where he recovered her father’s body.
Despite local authorities ruling her father’s death an accident, conspiracy theories bloomed overnight and persisted. This was partly because when her father was killed, there was only one witness…another climber who was a stranger to the Kime family and friends…and some felt his story was suspect. But also fueling these suspicions was the terrible timing of his death.
When he died, Zane R. Kime MD, had been practicing Environmental Medicine and had become the target of a governmental prosecution against this specialty. This lawsuit threatened the vested interests of the chemical industry and the outcome looked hopeful for a decision in his favor. However, with his death, the case was dismissed and some say, the threat eliminated. When Faun’s mother hired a private investigator to explore the matter further, the other climber threatened to sue…and then disappeared.
The conspiracy theories drove Faun to start exploring her father’s death. However, she is soon unraveling his controversial life as a physician practicing Environmental Medicine. Environmental Medicine, like much of alternative medicine has considerable opposition. This is partly because it’s a newer more progressive medicine. Throughout history, the old paradigm in science has been slow to accept the new. But in this era of unchecked capitalism, Faun discovers that advancement in alternative medicine has nearly ground to a halt…if it doesn’t profit the pharmaceutical or chemical industry.
Faun narrows her investigation to one particularly contentious issue and example of this phenomenon…the diagnosis and treatment of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) or Gulf War Syndrome. Official recognition of this syndrome would translate to billions of dollars in liability to the chemical industry. As toxic tort liabilities have increased across the country, an alliance has emerged between the chemical industry and physicians who are part of the old paradigm that denounce MCS. Large sums of money were paid to these physicians to testify that victims claiming to have MCS were psychotic and that physicians who diagnosed it were quacks. Memos evidence the chemical industry’s strategy to terminate Environmental Medicine; educate the state medical licensing boards (government agencies, not to be confused with the AMA) across the nation about the illegitimacy of this new field of medicine. It worked. Starting in the early 1980’s, prosecutions to revoke the licenses of physicians practicing Environmental Medicine, and alternative medicine, began nationwide.
The Tomato Effect chronicles a microcosm of this tragedy when an entire group of ten physicians in the San Francisco area are run out of medicine by the Medical Board of California. However, Zane R. Kime, MD refused to capitulate and fought back in a legal case that progressed to the appellate court, gained nationwide attention and wide medical interest. But as everyone waited for the decision, he was killed in an “accident” and the case was dismissed. Faun’s investigation not only uncovers shocking secrets about her father’s death, but the disturbing truth about the state of health care.