Dr. Kooshian, Mr. Hide

Orange Countys most celebrated AIDS doctor now admits he faked drug injections

Candis Cohen, spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California, said doctors are required to act ethically. "I can't think of a single situation where it would be legally appropriate to deliberately lie to a patient," she said.

But Kooshian downplayed the medical ramifications of the scandal: "I was not, you know, completely convinced the IVIG would help Bryan." Though he doubted the drug's benefits, he said under oath, he deceived Noble in the hopes of producing a placebo effect. "I thought that there might be a psychological aspect," he said.

Opinion—who worked for Kooshian for 11 years—disputes the doctor's version. He says Kooshian ordered him to fake all the shots.

"He promised me that he would try to bring me down if I ever told anyone," said Opinion, who has since filed a wrongful-termination claim against the doctor.

The doctor did not respond to several requests for an interview. However, sources familiar with Kooshian's office have confirmed that Opinion complained bitterly about questionable office practices—giving patients fake drugs, suboptimal doses and selling expired narcotics as well as charging for samples—before he quit but was ignored. In April 2001, when the nurse contemplated telling Noble about the fake injections, Kooshian sent Opinion a greeting card. On the front was a drawing of a red heart; inside, Kooshian wrote, "I just want you to know how much I appreciate you for all you do. Thank you again. We all miss you. I miss you."

Opinion says he "knew Kooshian was being nice just to keep my mouth shut." Instead, the nurse hired Lampel to sue for emotional distress, confessed to Noble, and then gave his story to the Weekly ("'My Conscience Is Killing Me,'" July 27, 2001). The story was picked up by The Orange County Register, several television and radio stations, and various LA-based gay publications, but it was ignored by the Los Angeles Times.

Kooshian, a Virginia native, has been hailed for his community service, Southern charm and warm bedside manner. But this isn't his first legal brawl. In 1991, state police raided two of his Orange County medical offices after an undercover narcotics sting. According to law-enforcement files, authorities confiscated various drugs related to illegal steroids production and arrested Kooshian. He eventually was charged with 14 felony counts, including prescribing drugs without a legitimate purpose and prescribing drugs to individuals who were not his patients. The doctor blamed his crimes on emotional distress in his personal life and received a reduced sentence of three years' probation and a $20,000 fine.

Sources say state medical board investigators are looking into Kooshian's practice. If the board determines that the allegations against the doctor are true, he could lose his license.

Kooshian expects exoneration. His "reputation and integrity have been the brunt of plaintiff's allegations as they have been played out ad nauseam with the media," said Kooshian attorney Terrence Schafer.

"The plain and simple truth is that [Kooshian] is a criminal," countered Lampel. "He has been engaged in crimes, and we intend to hold him responsible for his despicable conduct."

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