Schmerler did not return phone calls requesting an interview for this story.

DR. RICK SHACKET

In 2003, Dr. Schmerler's partner in practice, Dr. Rick Shacket, shared the same page of an IRS press release, long before he shared the same office suite in Scottsdale. The press release detailed the felony convictions of both doctors.

Dr. Gary Page
Dr. Gary Page

Details

Shacket secured his homeopathic license in 2001, before his conviction. The next year, he was sentenced to 33 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to creating a false identity so that he could hide $540,000 in profits, according to IRS documents.

A standard practice for nearly every medical board in the country, the California Osteopathic Board revoked Shacket's license. But Arizona's homeopathic board didn't. Shacket's Arizona license remained intact even while he was in prison and on probation. His profile on the Arizona Homeopathic Board Web site shows no discipline or letters of concern since his licensing in 2001.

In 2005, the osteopathic board also gave Schmerler an Arizona license.

Shacket did not return calls for comment.

DR. JEFFREY RUTGARD

In 1995, Dr. Jeffrey Rutgard, a San Diego ophthalmologist, was found guilty of talking senior patients into unnecessary eye surgeries, so he could pocket the Medicare payments. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay $15 million to Medicare. The California Medical Board revoked his license during the 1994 trial.

Rutgard was out of prison by 2004. He promised the Arizona homeopathic board he would move to the state to learn alternative medicine. A chiropractor even testified that he'd take Rutgard under his wing to keep an eye on him.

Four years later, Rutgard apparently has yet to relocate to Arizona. The board hasn't penalized him, and Rutgard's license is intact. Despite his revoked California M.D. license, he practices part time in California with his Arizona M.D.h. and under the supervision of another homeopath, according to Homeopathic Board records.

California Medical Board spokeswoman Candace Cohen says Rutgard is breaking the law in that state if he is diagnosing patients or prescribing drugs, regardless of the Arizona license.

New Times could not confirm whether Rutgard has broken the law in California. He has paid his annual renewal fee of almost $1,000 for five years.

Rutgard did not return a message left on his home answering machine, requesting an interview.


Dr. Todd Rowe has served on Arizona's homeopathic board since 2005. He took over as president a month after state auditors released their report in the fall of 2007. Rowe, a psychiatrist, holds a valid Arizona M.D. license in addition to his homeopathic license.

Rowe says he and his board members are working to fix the problems outlined in the audit.

"I do feel like there's cleaning to do, and we have been working on that. We thought the auditors did an excellent job and really listened to the issues," he says.

But Rowe disagrees with the audit's statement that the homeopathic board may not serve a purpose. He and others in the alternative medicine community say Arizona holds the unique position of protecting alternative medicine.

As for the audit finding that licensed homeopaths aren't practicing homeopathic medicine, Rowe says the board wants to change its name to the board of "homeopathic and integrative medicine." That way the board can continue licensing alternative treatments outside the scope of homeopathy.

Rowe adds that the board is prepared to protect and regulate alternative medicine and that it's cracking down. "We've been tightening our discipline, at least since I've come onboard," he says. "All of our disciplinary actions have been at least if not more stringent than other boards."

He says the board is speeding up its investigations, too, by using volunteer homeopathic doctors to investigate complaints against their colleagues. Though that's a far cry from the professional, independent investigators the conventional medical board uses, it may be better than the recent system, in which board members investigated complaints themselves.

"We've made significant changes in the last year. There's a flow chart now that mandates we investigate every matter, at least since I've been president," Rowe says.

But three months ago, on January 9, the board failed to see an apparent violation of law right under its nose. Dr. Elliott Schmerler, the doctor banned from practicing cosmetic surgery in Nevada, stood before the board. It had been one year since the board voted to license Schmerler, a convicted felon.

The American Board of Cosmetic Surgeons had filed a board complaint that Schmerler was using their acronym, ABCS, on his business card and Web site — implying he's still board-certified, which he's not.

Schmerler showed the homeopathic board a new business card and said he had pulled the misleading acronym off his Web site. The board didn't discipline him, writing him a non-disciplinary letter of concern instead.

With that, Schmerler was off the hook.

The board had just been reminded, by the death of Dr. Gary Page's liposuction patient in July 2007, that it's illegal to use a homeopathic license for major cosmetic surgery in Arizona.

Still, none of the board members asked Schmerler why he's advertising as a cosmetic surgeon and M.D., when he isn't licensed as either in Arizona.

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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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