A Denver judge has ruled that the operator of a controversial "medical detox" center is in contempt of court for continuing to refer to herself as a doctor and administer IVs containing her proprietary blend of amino-acid injections, despite an injunction prohibiting her from practicing medicine. But the sanctions imposed against Tamea Sisco by District Court Chief Judge Michael Martinez fall short of what state regulators had hoped.
Martinez denied requests by the Colorado Medical Board to have Sisco incarcerated, or to order her to give up ownership of her business, Aminokit Laboratories, and bar her from working in the field of addiction treatment. Although he did order Sisco to pay attorney fees associated with the board's pursuit of the contempt finding, an additional fine of $25,000 will be suspended if Sisco submits a report showing that she's now complying with the injunction.
Sisco says the ruling was "a good outcome" that will help put to rest "horrible, unbelievable allegations."
Sisco first drew regulators' attention by claiming to provide a rapid medical detox process for alcoholics and drug addicts that utilized "cutting-edge medical interventions." She made headlines a few years ago by claiming to offer Colorado's first medical marijuana detox program. She represented herself as a "certified addictionologist" and a specialist in detox procedures. In fact, she had a Kansas chiropractic license that was revoked in the 1990s, and one in Colorado that she lost for practicing beyond the bounds of her specialty.
The loss of her license, though, didn't stop Sisco from continuing to refer to herself as a doctor; one letter to the Colorado Board of Nursing was signed by "Tamea Sisco, MD," and one of her e-mail addresses referred to her as "aminodoc." An undercover investigator from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) also reported that she was administering IVs.
Testimony at the recent contempt hearing — much of it closed to the public, after Martinez ruled that the privacy interests of Sisco's patients required a closed proceeding — indicated that Sisco has continued to play doctor and, in Martinez's words, "engaged in an inappropriate pattern and practice of control and supervision of medical decisions" at her detox center. But Martinez also concluded that he lacked the authority to compel Sisco to shut down her business.
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"While the Board is disappointed in the sanctions imposed, we are hopeful that the finding of contempt will impress upon Ms. Sisco that she is not authorized to engage in the practice of medicine," said Karen McGovern, the Medical Board's program director.
In addition to the contempt finding, Sisco has faced a battery of lawsuits from former patients. One led to a $3.7 million jury verdict last fall; in that instance, a female patient accused an Aminokit counselor of groping her in a hotel room where she was receiving treatment. Sky Ridge Medical Center has also come under fire for leasing office space to Sisco — which, plaintiffs' attorney Jerome Reinan argues, enforces the false impression that she's a medical professional.
Sisco says many of the allegations against her stem from a few disgruntled patients looking for big settlements. She only wore a lab coat for a scene in a television documentary, she insists, and hasn't administered intravenous injections since she used to do "infusions" as a chiropractor many years ago. She claims the contempt hearing was initiated to advance Reinan's civil cases.
"It was not so as much about the regulators as an attorney bringing DORA into a civil lawsuit," she says. "I was accused of practicing medicine, and obviously I'm not — and never have been." She says she anticipates being able to demonstrate to Judge Martinez that she is complying with the terms of the injunction.