Brian Clement, director of the Florida health spa that provided therapy to leukemia patient Makayla Sault before her death and another Ontario First Nations girl still battling the disease, has been ordered to stop practising medicine without a licence and fined for representing himself as a medical doctor.
In documents obtained by CBC News, Florida’s Department of Health says it has probable cause to believe the director of the Hippocrates Health Institute treated two children battling leukemia "with unproven and possibly dangerous therapies."
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In July, 11-year-old Makayla Sault attended the Hippocrates Health Institute after leaving chemotherapy at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton.
Makayla died last month, after suffering a relapse. The Ontario's coroner's office is investigating.
J.J., 11, had left chemotherapy to attend the Hippocrates institute last August. Her identity can’t be revealed because of a publication ban. In both girls' cases, the Brant Children's Aid Society was called in to investigate but did not intervene.
J.J.'s mother told CBC News that she was convinced her daughter should abandon chemotherapy after speaking with Clement.
"By him saying, ‘Oh yes, no problem we can help her,’ that's the day I stopped the chemo."
Clement denies having said this to the girl’s mother.
''They would use the word cure. 'We're going to cure your illness,'" - Steven Pugh, former nurse at Hippocrates Health Institute
She says J.J. was treated with laser therapy, vitamins administered intravenously and a strict raw food diet that she was advised to maintain for two years.
A letter from Florida health authorities hand-delivered to Clement and dated Feb. 10, 2015, orders him to "cease and desist" and accuses him of misrepresenting himself as a medical doctor. Clement has been ordered to pay a fine of $3,738 US and was given 30 days to respond.
The investigation is continuing and the Department of Health warns, "This citation does not prevent other administrative, civil or criminal prosecution."
Practising medicine without a licence is a felony in Florida, and if convicted Clement could face a range of penalties including jail time.
Former employees suing Clement
Hippocrates Health Institute bills itself as an educational institution, but Florida has licensed it as a massage establishment. According to a 2013 tax return, the institute earned $22 million US in revenue and the Clements took home over a million dollars.
CBC News has spoken to former Hippocrates Health Institute employees who are pursuing legal action against Clement.
Steven Pugh, who worked as a nurse, claims he was fired for speaking up about Clement practising medicine, including prescribing treatments to patients facing serious illnesses.
He says he was concerned that Clements and his wife, Anna Maria, were giving false hope to patients.
"They would use the word cure. 'We're going to cure your illness,’" Pugh says.
Prior to CBC’s investigation, the Clements used "Dr." to describe themselves on the institute’s website, but have since deleted those titles.
Degrees from ‘diploma mill’
Clement claims to have a doctorate of naturopathic medicine and a PhD in nutrition from the University of Science Arts and Technology (USAT), based in Montserrat.
However, USAT president Orien Tulp said, "Brian Clement, he is not a naturopathic doctor from USAT. I can guarantee that. He shouldn’t be making false claims for one. If he is, I’ll withdraw his degree."
George Gollin, a professor at the University of Illinois who has investigated USAT, calls it a diploma mill.
"It’s horrible," Gollin says. "I could have printed him a degree on a laser printer and it would be … just as indicative of training and skills. What I think is terrible is that he’s using this, as I understand it, to treat patients who are desperately sick children."
Institute popular with Canadians
Canadians represent a significant part of the Hippocrates Health Institute's business, with sources telling CBC that more than a third of its customers at any given time could come from north of the border.
Clement has travelled extensively in Canada, and has given 19 different talks in towns and cities across the country, including two on Six Nations.
In a video obtained by CBC News, Clement says his institute teaches people to “heal themselves” from cancer.
“We've had more people reverse cancer than any institute in the history of health care,” he says. “So when McGill fails or Toronto hospital fails, they come to us. Stage 4 (cancer), and they reverse it.”
Clement is scheduled to give a lecture in Calgary next month and in Vancouver in April.
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