A large number of complaints have reached the Second Television and Radio Authority in recent weeks following Odetta Schwartz's program that aired in mid-February on Channel 10. "I was horrified to hear Odetta saying in her outrageous way that Ritalin is a drug in every sense and all the talk about ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder] is nonsense," said one letter of complaint.
Meanwhile, Maariv editor Amnon Dankner received letters following Schwartz's two most recent columns in the paper, some of them from medical experts in the field. In those columns, Schwartz continued to preach vigorously against Ritalin and against diagnoses of attention deficit disorders, which she claimed do not exist at all. According to her, the problem is educational and not medical, and Ritalin is a very dangerous drug. She referred her readers to Ilan Solomon, formerly a pharmacist at Superpharm and now a marketer of natural medications. Solomon has been very busy ever since Schwartz published his name and phone number in the paper.
A Haaretz investigation found that Schwartz's column was copied almost in its entirety from an article written by Solomon, who draws his inspiration from the writings of the founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. Solomon even noted at the end of his article that all rights are reserved to the International Church of Scientology. For years, the Church of Scientology has been waging a campaign against psychiatry that focuses primarily on treating attention deficit disorders with Ritalin. Schwartz herself refuses to address the question of whether she personally has adopted the tenets of Scientology. "I won't comment on that, because it's irrelevant," she says. "I try to take the good in everything."
You are presenting a position that at the very least is controversial. Wouldn't it have been fitting to present the full picture?
Schwartz: "I have scientific backup from the United States. Ritalin, in accordance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's directives, comes with a black label, which means a very serious warning. It's silly to connect this to Scientology. The U.S. president signed a law banning parents from being forced to give their children Ritalin as a condition for keeping them in school."
Dr. Uri Schwartzman, a psychiatrist and the director of an adult attention deficit disorder clinic, is well-acquainted with Scientology's claims in this matter and also saw Schwartz's columns. "Scientology declared war to the bitter end against ADHD and Ritalin without having any scientific or research basis for their arguments," he says. "The debate over the existence of deficit disorders was already decided long ago in the medical world. Odetta has an agenda that mixes up all sorts of things, and it has no scientific underpinning.
"She denies the very existence of the syndrome, despite all the studies indicating it exists. The methods Scientology suggests are effective for healing cancer and blindness; it's just based on supports that are nonsense. The basic and most effective treatment for the syndrome is drug therapy. The problem is that Odetta's remarks are preventing treatment for people whose lives could have changed dramatically.
"If the syndrome is not treated at a young age, the child carries around the results his entire life. Articles such as Odetta's cause people to stop treatment and expose the child to failures and to a feeling that he is not worth anything and is stupid, a feeling that the world is a difficult place for him. This leads to depression and anxieties in adult life."
The editor of Maariv was stunned when he found that his paper served as a platform for Scientology's worldview. "I read a lot about cults because I'm interested in the anthropological aspect," says Dankner. "I don't have good things to say about cults and about Scientology in particular. After I received complaints and looked into the matter, I ordered that the letter sent by several doctors be printed in full and together with the editor of the supplement, I decided that writing on this subject would stop." Later on, Dankner called Schwartz directly and informed her that he was barring her from dealing with the issue and that he would not allow Maariv to serve as a platform for Scientology.
The Second Television and Radio Authority's ombudsman, Giora Rosen, was unaware Schwartz was drawing her inspiration from the writings of Scientology, but ruled she had ostensibly violated the rules of ethics and the Second Television Law by providing medical advice on television without being authorized to do so.
At Channel 10, however, no one rushed to look carefully at the program, which airs daily on the channel. Several copies of Rosen's position were sent to the channel's executives, but no one there had heard about the complaints that had been sent in, and on Tuesday it was reported that the "matter would be looked into."