Phoenix, Arizona (PressExposure) April 10, 2008 -- New Times researched the licensing history of all 107 homeopathic physicians in the state and reviewed hundreds of pages of board records. Among the findings:
â¢ One-fourth of Arizona's homeopaths have lost their conventional M.D. or D.O. licenses.
â¢ The homeopathic board has licensed at least five convicted felons, whose crimes range from tax fraud to mail fraud. Four are now practicing. The other is on parole.
â¢ The board dismissed a complaint against a homeopath after a patient died. Although a county medical examiner determined that the homeopath caused the death, the board ruled that the procedure did not violate the rules of homeopathy.
â¢ One-fourth of the homeopaths licensed in Arizona don't live or practice in Arizona. Some practice with their Arizona M.D.h. in states where their M.D. license has been revoked. That is illegal in some states and legal in others.
â¢ Other state medical boards pay professional investigators to study complaints against doctors. The homeopathic board uses volunteer alternative doctors to investigate their colleagues.
â¢ Some doctors use their Arizona homeopathic licenses to perform face lifts, breast augmentations, liposuctions, and other surgeries that homeopaths aren't allowed to perform.
â¢ Doctors who claim an interest in homeopathy need little training in the field to get an Arizona license.
DR. GABRIEL COUSENS
In 1998, Charles Levy, 57, booked a flight to Arizona. Levy, an insurance agent, told his family he was in good health and planned to visit the Tree of Life Spa for a time of rejuvenation with a homeopathic doctor.
He looked forward to the live organic vegan diet and spiritual rest described by Dr. Gabriel Cousens, whose Web site promotes him as an M.D. and M.D.h.
Cousens is not eligible for an M.D. license in Arizona because his license was once taken away (but reinstated) in California and remains censured in New York. According to Arizona Medical Board spokesman Roger Downey, that makes a doctor ineligible for an Arizona medical license. If Cousens were a D.O., he would be eligible. But he's not. He's been practicing here as a homeopath for 15 years.
According to court records from a civil suit filed by Levy's family, Levy showed up at Cousens' secluded campus in the green hills of Patagonia, Arizona. He was hoping for a time of physical and spiritual rest. Cousens told him that injections of cow adrenaline and/or sheep DNA could energize his body. Levy agreed to five injections, which aren't a homeopathic treatment but are allowed by Arizona's homeopathic board.
Unfortunately, the injection site -- on Levy's right buttock -- grew infected, so he went to see Cousens about it. Cousens didn't recommend an antibiotic. Instead, he treated the growing abscess with acupuncture and massage.
The infected area became green and black. It spread down Levy's thigh, and on March 1, 1998, Levy did not wake up in his dorm room at the Tree of Life Spa. Cousens found Levy unconscious and attempted CPR, with no success.
Cousens did not call 911. Instead, he called an air ambulance, and arranged for a helicopter pickup on the football field of a nearby high school.
Cousens and a nurse carried Levy -- draped in a bathrobe, bleeding from his mouth and groin -- to a car and drove him five minutes to the field.
A Patagonia police officer was driving by the school when he saw Cousens and a number of spa guests gathered around an unclothed body lying on the grass.
Levy's buttock and thigh were black and swollen. His eyes were wide open. He was dead. After the helicopter took the body, Dr. Cousens told the officer that he'd injected Levy with sheep DNA. Later, Cousens contradicted his statement, saying the injection was actually cow hormones.
Whether the injection was cow or sheep didn't matter to Santa Cruz County Medical Examiner Dr. Cynthia Porterfield. She examined Levy's body and ruled that the injection and subsequent infection killed him. Specifically, she found that Levy died from Clostridium perfringens, a bacteria that grows in gas gangrene. During the Civil War, that bacteria claimed thousands of soldiers' lives when it grew in their battle wounds. Modern antibiotics can kill the bacteria easily when used.
"I spoke with him the day before. The next day, I got a phone call that he was gone," Levy's son, Howard, says. "I pretty much haven't recovered since. He was not on any medication, didn't have high blood pressure, or a weight problem. He could go out and run three miles on the boardwalk."
Levy filed a lawsuit against Cousens, and Cousens paid an undisclosed amount to settle the suit after the medical examiner pinned the death directly on him.
The osteopathic medical board also examined the autopsy and ruled that the medical examiner was right to name the injection and infection as the causes of death.
But when Cousens' dead patient came up before the homeopathic board in 2001, the board dismissed the complaint -- despite the medical examiner's findings.
The board ruled that, though a patient did die, the doctor did not violate any laws of homeopathic medicine.
In his October 11, 2000 court deposition, board member Dr. Garry Gordon says he served as the board's lead investigator into Cousens, but he also worked as an expert witness for Cousens in court.
Because the homeopathic board dismissed the complaint, the medical board in California -- where Cousens holds his M.D. -- has no way of knowing Cousens injected a patient with animal hormones. It has no way of knowing he treated a growing infection with acupuncture or that a county medical examiner named his treatment as the causes of a patient's death.
The Arizona board has since destroyed audio records from that meeting (technically, it did so legally).
"I think it's a travesty that he's still practicing in Arizona," Howard Levy says from his home in New York. "Those people who are allowing this to continue to happen are just as guilty. The simple fact that he can continue to practice medicine in any way, shape, or form shows that the system is failing the general public."
Today, Cousens still practices at his spa in Patagonia. He says he has "28 cubic feet of scientific literature" that disprove the medical examiner. He says Levy died of an extremely rare syndrome that strikes suddenly and kills in hours. Cousens also says Levy was sick when he arrived at the spa and had the gas gangrene infection long before his cow adrenaline injections.