The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) is reporting on the case of Isabel Kesari Gervais, 60, who used several aliases while offering naturopathic medical care to patients and claiming to be a doctor.
Naturopathy is based on the central belief that nature has its own healing power (a principle practitioners call vis medicatrix naturae). Naturopaths believe their role is to support this natural healing power and prefer to use treatment approaches they consider to be the most natural and least invasive. Some of these methods include nutrition counseling (such as eating more whole and unprocessed foods), the use of vitamins and other supplements, herbal medicines, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, exercise therapy, massage, fasting, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and minor surgery.
Currently, 18 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have licensing requirements for naturopathic physicians who are generally required to complete a four-year, graduate-level program at one of the North American naturopathic medical schools accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. The scope of their practice is defined by law in the state in which they practice and may or may not allow these physicians to prescribe drugs, perform minor surgery, practice acupuncture and/or assist in childbirth.
However, traditional naturopaths, who are not subject to licensing, often get their degrees from non-accredited correspondence or Internet-based organizations.
Apparently, Ms. Gervais had no legitimate medical degrees or training and yet was practicing medicine in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas and Georgia.
“At all the clinics, Gervais falsely represented herself as a licensed doctor with extensive experience and various degrees who used naturopathic medicine to cure people of various illnesses, including cancer,” said a press release issued last week by the prosecutor’s office in Northern District of Alabama.
“For years this defendant lied about her credentials and took advantage of desperately ill people,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Robert Posey.
“She promised patients, including cancer sufferers, at the Hoover clinic that she could provide various medical services, including DNA tests that she did not have the technology to conduct.”
Gervais managed to escape the law for so many years by changing locations and adopting new aliases.
But the law finally caught up with her. According the indictment, she made unauthorized charges on the credit cards of Alabama patients totaling about $9,000 while operating a clinic in Hoover, Alabama out of an herb shop.
Gervais has pleaded guilty to one charge each of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, aggravated identity theft and making false statements.
She has been incarcerated at Alabama’s Shelby County jail since March of this year and is due to be sentenced in November.
If convicted, she faces a maximum of 37 years in prison and fines of up to $1.25 million.