How low can this pseudo-medical organization go? Earlier today we told you that PETA’s medical front group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), was scaremongering about mad cow disease to get schools to “replace beef and other meaty items” with vegetarian cafeteria meals. In another base attempt to frighten Americans into giving up meat, fish, and dairy, PCRM is now misleading the public about the death of the late Dr. Robert Atkins. The Internet’s second most popular source for breaking news, the Drudge Report, featured the Center for Consumer Freedom’s response to PCRM’s smears.

Citing PCRM as its source, today’s Wall Street Journal (link requires subscription) reports that Dr. Atkins was clinically obese at the time of his death. But Atkins gained 60 pounds during the last days of his life, when he was in a coma following a head injury. The six-foot-tall Atkins was a fit 180-195 pounds prior to his accident. PCRM also attempts to blame the Atkins diet for its namesake’s heart condition. But doctors say a virus, not his diet, was the root cause.

Officials at the educational foundation bearing Dr. Atkins’ name are speculating that PCRM may have broken federal laws by leaking Dr. Atkins’ private medical file to the Journal. Atkins’ medical records were first obtained by Dr. Richard M. Fleming of Nebraska. According to the Associated Press, Dr. Fleming then apparently passed the confidential records to PCRM. CNN reports that the New York City medical examiner has filed a formal complaint against Fleming with the state of Nebraska.

PCRM has engaged in a long-term war against Atkins, using every trick in the book to tarnish his diet recommendations. In November 2003 the group held a press conference in Washington, making wild claims about “fatalities” related to Atkins dieting. And who appeared on a “doctor’s panel” that day, right alongside PCRM president Neal Barnard? You guessed it: Dr. Richard M. Fleming.

Last week we reported that PCRM ran an advertisement looking for plaintiffs to sue doctors. The ad asks: “Were you advised by a doctor to go on the [Atkins] diet or did you consult with a doctor about the diet?” If so, it continues, “you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages.” Readers are then referred to a PCRM lawyer.

Of course, PCRM doesn’t reserve its unethical tactics for anti-Atkins propaganda. The American Medical Association wrote to PCRM president Neal Barnard:

The general approach used by PCRM takes selective data and quotations, often out of context … In response to a Resolution passed unanimously at the recent AMA House of Delegates meeting, the American Medical Association calls upon the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to immediately terminate the inappropriate and unethical tactics your organization uses to manipulate public opinion.