Dr. K KOd

OC Weekly series leads to federal indictment of celebrated AIDS doctor

"I think it's important, even imperative, for the news media to publish all stories, such as the Kooshian story, so their readers can decide for themselves if they want to continue their health care with a doctor whose only obvious interest is money and not the well-being of his patients," said metroG's Brown. "As a publisher, I feel like it's my responsibility to publish all the news, not just the good news."

* * *

The controversy heated up that summer, when Moxley revealed Kooshian had confessed in an April 25, 2002, deposition that he had secretly ordered Opinion to inject an AIDS patient with liquid vitamins rather than an expensive and medically critical drug.

Kooshian made the admission in a deposition during a multimillion-dollar malpractice lawsuit filed against him by Bryan Noble, a past patient and prominent AIDS activist. Noble suffered from severe peripheral neuropathy, a condition that hampers vital nerve functions. In hopes of relieving pain that made work nearly impossible, Noble went to Kooshian from December 1999 until July 2001, expecting regular doses of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). Shortly after the Weekly'sfirst story on Kooshian, Noble asserted the doctor committed assault and battery as well as fraud by repeatedly lying about the contents of intravenous injections. His lawsuit alleged he never received a single dose.

Kooshian finally relented. Following a grueling, sometimes-testy three-and-a-half-hour examination conducted by Lampel, Opinion and Noble's attorney, the doctor acknowledged the injection subterfuge and confirmed that Noble's IVIG had never even been ordered from a pharmacy.

"I told him [Opinion] to go ahead and give, you know, the vitamin infusion," Kooshian testified, according to documents obtained by the Weekly."And, you know, I, you know, chose to give him the vitamin packs because it actually was, you know, it wasn't something I planned. It's just sort of by the spur of the moment."

During each of his four two-hour appointments, Noble sat in the doctor's exam room believing the IV hooked to his arm was delivering powerful, expensive lifesaving drugs. But he was increasingly suspicious, puzzled by the lack of progress in his health. And he knew from experience that something wasn't quite right with Kooshian's IVIG treatments. IVIG has a short shelf life once mixed. Noble's previous doctor had always prepared the costly drug in his presence. But according to Noble, Kooshian always claimed he had mixed the IVIG before his patient's arrival.

When Lampel asked him why he had erroneously recorded in a medical file that Noble had received IVIG, Kooshian explained he was "swamped" with work and was "very embarrassed" the drug had not been administered.

According to Lampel, the fake IVIG treatments caused Noble additional pain that was not relieved until another doctor, Jorge Rodriguez of Newport Beach, administered real doses. Under Rodriguez's care, Noble told the Weeklyin July 2002, he no longer suffered the severe effects of peripheral neuropathy.

"When you go to a doctor, you put your life in his hands. You would hope he's not playing God," Noble said in Moxley's June 2002 story, "Dr. Kooshian, Mr. Hide".

In that same article, Moxley also revealed that Kooshian intended to build his trial defense on his assertion that he didn't orchestrate the fake injections but ultimately approved them because, though medically insignificant, they might produce a placebo effect. In the deposition, he seemed to downplay the medical ramifications of the faked injections. "I was not, you know, completely convinced the IVIG would help Bryan," he told Lampel. 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.

Candis Cohen, spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California—a state agency that took no action against Kooshian despite receiving copies of the Weeklyarticles as well as independent tips—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.

Despite the admission, Kooshian promised that juries would never find him guilty. And in early 2003, it seemed he was right. In January of that year, each of the civil cases was dismissed from Orange County Superior Court, but not necessarily for the reason Kooshian had suggested. Both Virgil Opinion, his former nurse, and Bryan Noble, his former patient, agreed to drop their lawsuits after the millionaire HIV specialist paid them undisclosed amounts.

That much seemed hopeful. Then justice went weird. Thanks to legal motions by the doctor, the judges sealed settlement terms in both cases; all parties to the litigation are prohibited from discussing the matter. In the Noble suit, Kooshian won even greater secrecy: without offering even a hint of rationale, Judge William M. Monroe ordered the entire case file removed from public view.

Judge Michael Naughton, who handled the Opinion case, asserted that secrecy will protect the public and Kooshian's profitable medical business at Valley View Internal Medicine in Garden Grove and at his Ocean View Internal Medicine in Laguna Beach and Long Beach. Disclosure of the facts of the settlement would "materially interfere" with Kooshian's "reputation," Naughton said.

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