A health clinic was ordered Friday to pay $873,000...

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- A health clinic was ordered Friday to pay $873,000 to the widow of a California man who died on a diet of nothing but distilled water.

William Carlton, 49, of Los Altos, Calif., died in October 1978 at now-defunct Dr. Shelton's Health School.


Carlton had been on the 'water fast' for a month.

Attorneys contended Carlton, who lost 50 pounds in 30 days, was starved to death. A medical examiner said Carlton actually died of bronchial pneumonia brought on by his weakened condition.

Carlton, an accountant, had enrolled at the health school to try to avoid surgery for colitis, his family said. The school touted its drugless healing methods and decried 'drugging monopolists and medical orthodoxy.'

Afederal court jury deliberated nearly four hours before finding the school and its officials -- Dr. Herbert Shelton and Dr. Virginia Vertrano -- guilty of negligence in Carlton's death.

Joan Carlton and her four children had asked for $1.5 million in their lawsuit.

Carlton was the sixth person in five years to die while undergoing treatment at the health school. Similar wrongful death suits also charged starvation, dehydration and malnutrition.

The school closed in May 1981 after 54 years of operation 15 miles north of San Antonio.


Shelton, who died in his 80s shortly before the school closed, called himself a 'naturopath' and successfully battled the state's attempts to close his school.

His literature said the school depended on 'normal biological processes of recuperation and structural integrity' rather than relying on drugs.

In a fund-raising drive to help pay for the lawsuits, the American Natural Hygiene Society said Shelton's school stood for the 'the right of individuals to choose non-medical and drugless solutions to health problems.'

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