Arizona's homeopathic board is the second chance for doctors who may not deserve one

A Florida doctor lost his license after he was diagnosed as a sex addict — he claimed he could cure his female patients by fondling their breasts.

A Utah doctor lost his license after he illegally prescribed drugs over the Internet.

A California doctor lost his license after he was charged with hiding more than half a million dollars in profits, convicted of tax fraud, and sent to prison.

Dr. Gary Page
Dr. Gary Page

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Another California doctor's license was suspended twice. The first time, he was accused of missing cancer in two patients. The second time, of misprescribing drugs.

Yet another California doctor went to prison and was ordered to pay $15 million in fines after he was convicted of defrauding Medicare by performing unnecessary surgery on the eyes of elderly patients.

And a fourth California doctor had his license suspended, then moved to Arizona and lost a patient. The doctor injected the patient with either cow hormones or sheep DNA (the doctor's given two versions of the story), which caused an infection. The patient died.

In the world of medicine, there are no second chances. A doctor makes a misstep, and a patient can die. That's why the boards that license allopathic and osteopathic doctors — M.D.s and D.O.s, respectively — are so tough, and often criticized for not being tough enough. (See "The Doctor Is Out," John Dickerson, March 6, the first in our "Prescription for Disaster" series.) Lose your M.D. license in one state in the U.S., and you may never practice medicine again. Certainly not in this state.

Unless you know about Arizona's Homeopathic Board of Medical Examiners.

For a few hundred dollars, some extra training (sometimes provided by the board's president himself, for a fee) and a test on the principles of homeopathy, an M.D. or D.O. who likely can't secure another medical license can get a license to practice homeopathic medicine in the state of Arizona. You'll be banned from some procedures, but for the most part, you can go back to practicing medicine — diagnosing patients, prescribing drugs, even performing minor surgeries.

All the doctors listed above — and more — are now homeopathic physicians, licensed to practice by the state of Arizona. (Except for that Utah doctor. He lost his homeopath's license last month after a patient died during a procedure he was not authorized to perform.)

And it's all perfectly legal under Arizona law.


Homeopathy isn't dangerous, per se. The alternative practice began in Germany in 1810. By modern medical and chemistry standards, it's a harmless pursuit because it dilutes chemicals almost to the purity of drinking water before injecting them into the body.

Classic homeopathy uses no prescriptions and is based on a theory that "like cures like" in sick patients. For example, if you're allergic to pollen in the air, a homeopathic physician might take that very pollen, dilute it, and inject you with it. The theory is that a small amount of the problem ingredient will cure you of your symptoms — sneezing, in the case of allergies. Modern chemists say homeopathic injections are so diluted that they have no effect, good or bad.

One popular homeopathic cure, oddly enough, is poison ivy oil. Because poison ivy causes a rash and can cause a fever, homeopathic physicians dilute the oil in alcohol, dilute it again, and use it to treat rashes and fevers. It may seem backward, but that's homeopathy. Homeopathic doctors track which substances help which patients, and then try the same treatments — pollen, poison ivy or otherwise — to treat patients with similar symptoms.

But that hardly matters here, because Arizona's homeopathic license is not always used to practice homeopathy. In fact, none of the doctors in this story were practicing it when they killed or harmed their patients. And, as the Arizona Auditor General found last year, the real problem is that the board is lax when it comes to poor medical treatment, regardless of whether it's considered homeopathic.

Homeopathic doctors can get the D.E.A. authority to prescribe the same drugs an M.D. or D.O. can prescribe, and are allowed to perform "minor" surgeries (for example, a homeopath can perform a vasectomy and administer local anesthesia, but can't perform a breast augmentation or give a patient an epidural) — which have nothing to do with homeopathic medicine. That attracts doctors who can't get, or who are about to lose, their conventional licenses.

Only two other states, Connecticut and Nevada, issue homeopathic licenses. Those states have tighter guidelines for getting a license and give their homeopaths less prescribing and surgical power than Arizona does.

So Arizona's license is a unique opportunity. In effect, the law amounts to a loophole for doctors who've gotten in trouble, or know they'll soon get in trouble, to practice medicine with the initials M.D.h., as homeopathic physicians — even if they don't practice homeopathy.

The requirements for getting an M.D. license in Arizona are strict. You cannot even apply for an M.D. license if you've ever lost an M.D. license in another state. (And that includes California, which can "revoke" an M.D. license, then reinstate it. If your California M.D. license has been revoked, you cannot get an Arizona M.D. license.) You also cannot apply if you have a felony conviction.

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11 comments
Mrs. Arpaio
Mrs. Arpaio

I wish Joe Arpaio would make an appointment with one of these "doctors", heck I will even pay the bill.

kingarthurusa
kingarthurusa

I stayed at Cousens's place. It was cold,and not a place to fast or in my opinion to stay. A few people complained. I went there after reading his book sand meeting Cousens to write about positive points on the place Go to tripadvisor The disillusioned do not complain because of their shame and embarrassment. The locals called it the bush of death. They told me the story of the unfortunate Charles Levy. Now the the Phoenix Times have published it, the facts are true.A Spiritual welcome can cost money as well as health. People can be vulnerable when ill and certain health centers can easily pray on the weak.

SandyB
SandyB

SandyB says: Being from where the doctor used to live in Incline Village, Nevada and coming across this article makes my stomach turn.Apparently Arizona's Board of Medical Examiners can't even use a computer. A simple google on just the name ELLIOTT SCHMERLER would bring up enough information to ban him from having a license for any kind of 'practice'.In Incline here, he mamed so many of his patients by doing invasive surgeries of which he is not even legally trained to do. There are several eyebrow lift mistakes with huge scars and many of his patients died or almost died because of his malpractice. Elliott Schmerler WAS a family practitioner. He went to a couple of conferences where they sold the laser cosmetic surgery machines and bought one. Then he brought in Dr Morton Reza Mazaheri,http://www.healthgrades.com/di...(who did Betty Fords face in Palm Springs) and used Dr Mzaheri's CA license number to perform invasive surgeries. They both committed negligence on many, many patients- together and separately. Mr Schmerler had 6 counts of malpractice, 6 counts of tax fraud and 6 counts of moral turpitude on his patients, all at once in 2001. It was in our Bonanza paper.It's very easy to google their history. They have both lost their licenses. Mr Schmerler lost all 4 of his licenses and any reciprocity in other states, according to the articles written by staff that attended his senticing to prison in Federal Court in Reno Oct 31, 2002.

If you need more info on this guy, contact archives in both the 'Reno Gazette' and Incline newspaper the 'Bonanza', or just simply google Elliott Schmerler and scroll through the many pages of convictions and court appearances.

Citizen Deux
Citizen Deux

Interesting and powerful article. As a state which permits all manner of "alternaitve" practices and beliefs, this is one whihc has the power (and has) to harm the public. There is no need for a separate board to regulate homeopathic doctors. Setting aside the unproven science behind the pseudo-religious homeopathy itself, there are too many other aspects left to potentially dangerous, untrained individuals to practice on an unsuspecting public.

Many consumers do not realize that complementary and alternative medicine is often in that category because there is no science to support its efficacy! It is understandable for people to seek out treatment to provide relief from chronic ills, untreatable by conventional medicine, but it is the responsibility of the state to make sure those "secondary" paths are not fraught with peril from fraudulent practicioners.

I think you did not go far enough in this article.

Marcy
Marcy

Homopathetic "doctors" are one big step below chiroquacks on the big scale of medicine.

You might as well visit a witch doctor.

Lauren
Lauren

I'm not going to argue your statement about those doctors you mentioned becoming Homeopathic doctors in Arizona because I have no facts. Speaking of facts, however, your "impression" of homeopathy is completely incorrect. Homeopathic medicine does not believe in injecting people with pollen, etc. It's disappointing that you didn't do your research on it before writing the article. Get your facts straight!

AZ Mom
AZ Mom

No one condones professional misconduct by doctors but I agree with #1, it is long overdue to cover the professional misconduct by lawyers, prosecutorial misconduct by prosecutors in the County Attorney's office and others who in law enforcement, legal, judicial and prison systems, who destroy lives, families and children with reckless abandon and they do it without a conscience or even looking back -- as they "move on" to the next political career move! We want to hear about these stories and ruined lives.

selly
selly

Seems the medicine and technology are becoming more and more advanced. Not sure if any doctor can cure HIV or AIDS. I heard that bisexuals or gays are easily infected with that. But I have some bisexual friends on the site BiLoves, they told me they haven't been like that since there are some experts like Beth to guide them about that.

HOW ABOUT THE LAWYERS NEXT?
HOW ABOUT THE LAWYERS NEXT?

This article brings to mind --- Do us a public service with a series on lawyers and the damage they have done to thousands of lives and families, women and children. Lawyers destroy lives, too, by not doing their job, as more and more people get thrown into Arizona prisons or are coerced into pleas, losing their right to vote and have a voice, or get a job. The "Pew Prison Report - 1 in 100 adults in Prison", people sitting in jails and prisons in harsh and inhumane conditions. A blind eye is turned on this destruction of life and harm to our society. All those sitting in prison had lawyers.

It's time the lawyers were held to the same standards as a doctor or nurse, and not protected by immunity and Bar associations that do nothing. At least the medical boards take immediate action.

Now that you are exposing the medical professionals for their failures. We hope you do an in depth series on the damage the lawyers, both prosecutors and defense, have caused to the thousands of destroyed lives, families, women, children and the future of our society, as they "move on" to become our judges, elected officials and legislators, writing policies that affect us all.

Those living in the State of Arizona are currently paying a huge price in both in human misery and tax dollars for the damage of a broken legal system that no one is trying to fix. Lawyers here just keep collecting the huge fees, with no accountability. No insurance coverage for the people. Lawyers, with many bar complaints, are still seen in the courtrooms, year after year, still destroying lives. This a serious issue that needs to have sunlight shine harshly on the bad lawyers destroying lives daily. Let's hear those stories!

 
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