Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Homeopath patient's death debated despite Ariz. board clearing doctor

Homeopath patient's death debated despite Ariz. board clearing doctor

Complaint said infection allegedly stemmed from physician's treatment

Robbie Sherwood
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 9, 2005 12:00 AM

Only one case that has come before the Arizona Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners during the past five years has involved the death of a patient, but that 2001 decision to clear the doctor is still a contentious subject.

The board dismissed a complaint against Dr. Gabriel Cousens, a licensed homeopath who practices holistic medicine and runs a spa called the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia. The complaint alleged that an elderly patient died of a gas gangrene infection developed after Cousens repeatedly injected him with "bovine adrenal fluid" as a treatment for fatigue.

The family of the patient, Charles Levy of New York, sued Cousens for malpractice in Pima County Superior Court. The case was headed to trial when Cousens settled for an undisclosed amount of money paid to the family.

"I felt the homeopathic board made a very clean and fair decision in a very complicated case," said Cousens, who said the malpractice case had no merit despite the settlement. "They saw the science."

Cousens originally told police the substance he injected into Levy was "live sheep blood RNA and DNA," which is illegal to import for such a treatment, according to court documents.

Cousens later denied it was sheep blood and his documentation showed it was "bovine adrenal fluid," a less controversial substance derived from fetal cow tissues. Bovine adrenal fluid is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a therapeutic treatment, and the American Medical Association prohibits its injection, according to court papers

A Pima County medical examiner concluded that the injections led to a large abscess on Levy's right buttock, which developed into the deadly infection.

The plaintiffs alleged that when Levy complained about the swelling, pain and discomfort, Cousens misdiagnosed the condition as a muscle spasm and treated it over a period of four critical hours with only acupuncture and massage.

Cousens said that Levy was already ill when he came to the spa and that the medical examiner misdiagnosed the cause of death, which Cousens believes was toxic shock unrelated to his treatment. The Levy family's lawyer, Tucson attorney Mike McNamara, called Cousens' claims about the case "outrageous."

"The evidence (against Cousens) was absolutely overwhelming," McNamara said.

After the malpractice settlement, McNamara gave the homeopathic board copies of all the evidence and expert witness testimony in the case.

In that 2001 meeting, then Board Chairman Dr. Bruce Shelton said he "found no medical fault with Dr. Cousens' care of" Levy.

Finding "no violation of homeopathic law," the board voted to dismiss the complaint with only public member Joan Heskett voting no.

Cousens filed a complaint against the medical examiner with the state Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, alleging she botched her diagnosis. That board unanimously dismissed the complaint.

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