Almost three years afterBrian O'Connell
sent his seventeen-year-old patient, Catherine "Cat" Elizabeth Bresina, into cardiac arrest at the Lutheran Medical Center emergency room, the Colorado legislature has finally decided to do something to regulate naturopathy in this state.
On Thursday, February 15, the House Health and Human Services Committee passed a measure to begin licensing naturopathic doctors. To obtain a license, the doctor would need a graduate-level degree from an approved school. In other words, naturopathic doctors will now be held to much the same standard as any other doctor -- they must complete clinical tests, residencies, anatomy and cadaver labs and many, many more requirements in order to be considered a naturopathic doctor.
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And to think it only took a renegade like O'Connell, who sent two patients to the Lutheran Medical Center ER in a three-day period, and who was sued by Laura and David Flanagan for the death of their nineteen-year-old son, Sean Flanagan. The Flanagans settled their civil suit out-of-court, but they did testify before the committee that O'Connell told them he could cure their son. Sean died ten days after receiving treatment from the so-called doctor.
Up to that point, just about anyone could call himself a practicing naturopath in this state. O'Connell's office walls were covered with degrees, credentials and certificates proclaiming board approval or association membership. However, there were no state laws in place requiring that these pieces of paper originate from accredited institutions. O'Connell's "degree" to practice naturopathy was obtained after he completed a two-week correspondence course -- not the six years of rigorous schooling that will now be required by law.
Last year, O'Connell was sentenced to serve thirteen years in prison for his wrongdoings. His time served won't bring back Sean Flanagan, but after more than a decade of lobbying by accredited Colorado naturopaths, the steps are finally being taken to ensure that individuals like Brian O'Connell will have difficult time fooling people like the Flanagans, hopeful for any possibility of a cure.
Now the naturopathic community -- which will consist only of qualified, accredited practitioners -- really can say they aim to do no harm. And mean it. -- Amber Taufen