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04/26/96 CHAOVANEE AROONSAKUL v. KATHLEEN SHANNON

April 26, 1996

CHAOVANEE AROONSAKUL, AND A.P.M.C., D/B/A ALZHEIMER'S AND PARKINSON'S TREATMENT CENTER, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
KATHLEEN SHANNON, AND JACOB FOX, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES (PAMELA ZEKMAN, LINDA MACLENNAN, BRUCE NAUGHTON, LEON THAL, ADELE ARAKAWA, CONSTANTINE J. WONAIS, H. A. MOGHADAM, COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEMS, INC. (CBS), AND WBBM TV-CHANNEL 2, DEFENDANTS).



Appeal from the Circuit Court, Du Page County. No. 93-L-2223. Honorable Richard A. Lucas, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication May 30, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the court: Hutchinson, J., concurs. Presiding Justice Mclaren, specially concurring.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas

The Honorable Justice THOMAS delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiffs, Dr. Chaovanee Aroonsakul (individually referred to hereinafter as "the plaintiff") and A.P.M.C., an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, brought an action against 11 different defendants, including Pamela Zekman, Kathleen Shannon, Jacob Fox, Linda MacLennan, Adele Arakawa, and WBBM TV, alleging defamation, false-light invasion of privacy, and conspiracy to defame the plaintiffs. Pursuant to section 2--615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2--615 (West 1994)), the trial court dismissed with prejudice the plaintiffs' sole claim against Shannon, which alleged false-light invasion of privacy. The court dismissed without prejudice the sole claim against Fox, which alleged a conspiracy to defame the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs appeal the dismissal of their claims against Shannon and Fox. The claims against the other defendants remain pending.

The plaintiffs' second amended complaint alleged that the plaintiff is a physician and surgeon practicing medicine at the offices of A.P.M.C., doing business as the Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Treatment Center, in Naperville, Illinois. According to the complaint, the plaintiff invented the first effective treatment for neurodegenerative diseases in 1983. The treatment involves the plaintiff's alleged discovery that the major factor in the cause of various neurodegenerative diseases is the depletion and imbalance of hormones and that by replenishing certain hormones the diseases can be treated effectively. The plaintiff applied for a patent of her treatment in 1984 and was eventually issued seven United States patents and two foreign patents on methods of diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's disease and other diseases of the central nervous system. Since 1983, the plaintiff has treated over 400 patients with her patented method.

The second amended complaint further alleged that defendant Shannon is a neurologist affiliated with Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center which recently conducted an 11-year study to determine the effects of hormonal replacement therapy on women. According to the complaint, Shannon treated some patients with neurodegenerative diseases and was aware of the plaintiff's treatment methods.

The plaintiffs' claims for defamation and false-light invasion of privacy stem from WBBM-TV broadcasts aired November 5-6, 1992. The broadcast on November 5, 1992, was titled "Alzheimer's Investigation." It was introduced by defendant MacLennan as follows:

"Alzheimer's Disease. It is a mental disease that erases your memory, and it can be devastating. Researchers around the world are trying to find a cure, but a doctor in Naperville claims that she found a treatment ten years ago. And as Channel 2's Pam Zekman reports, she is exploiting desperate patients with false claims for her unproven cure."

Zekman then identified the plaintiff by name as the doctor and stated that "the treatment is injections of massive doses of growth hormones, fertility drugs, and steroids." Zekman noted that the plaintiff "says her research shows the treatment works." MacLennan concluded the November 5, 1992, broadcast by stating:

"[The plaintiff] refused to be interviewed for our story. Tomorrow at 4:30 [Zekman] will report on how other patients with other diseases have been taken as well."

The November 6, 1992, broadcast was titled "Medical Scam." Defendant Adele Arakawa introduced this broadcast with the following:

"She's a doctor. She holds out a ray of hope for victims of incurable diseases. They have Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS. She says she can cure them. They pay her, then, they say, nothing happens. Channel 2's Pam Zekman tonight confronts the doctor behind the scam."

Zekman then said that the plaintiff had been charged with fraud and the State wants to revoke her medical license. Zekman described the plaintiff's treatment as a "so-called cure" involving ...


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