SAN DIEGO (CNS) - An Encinitas woman accused of practicing medicine without a license, leaving a muscular sclerosis patient severely ill, pleaded not guilty Wednesday 11 felony charges.
Kathleen Ann Helms, 57, was ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas said two people treated by Helms filed complaints with the California Medical Board, prompting an investigation by the FBI.
The complaining witnesses claimed Helms, also known as Catherine Bright-Helms, falsely represented herself as a doctor of naturopathy in Encinitas and Oak Park, Ill.
"She tells people that she's a doctor; she in fact told the victims that she was an M.D.; she's not," Darvas said outside court. "She doesn't have a license in California to practice medicine or any form of allopathic or alternative medicine. She claimed to be an expert in Lyme disease."
Helms, who operated a business called BrightHouse Wellness on North El Camino Real in Encinitas, allegedly had been diagnosing patients with Lyme disease and advising them to undergo a treatment plan that involved the infusion of dimethyl sulfoxide, injections of animal cells and taking vitamins, according to the FBI.
According to an affidavit in the case, Helms diagnosed a patient with the inflammatory illness after looking at a sample of blood under a microscope, then prescribed a treatment plan that included shots of bovine stem cells from Germany.
Helms allegedly directed the patient to go to a Tijuana hospital to have a peripherally inserted central line put into one of her arms so Helms could give treatments intravenously. The patient agreed to pay $300 for the insertion of the line and $30,000 for the treatment Helms recommended, according to the affidavit.
The patient suffered multiple complications with the insertion of the line and had to return to Tijuana three times to make the line functional, according to the FBI.
The patient subsequently returned to Helms' office, where she was hooked to an IV and infused with four bags of dimethyl sulfoxide, an experimental medicinal solvent, and two stem-cell injections in the stomach, the affidavit alleges. The treatment session took about seven hours, according to the FBI.
The patient returned to Helms' office three more times and underwent a similar regime that included infusions and injections. On the evening of the last treatment, the woman became seriously ill at home and was taken to an emergency room and immediately placed in an intensive-care unit, according to the affidavit.
The patient initially was told she only had hours to live because her organs were shutting down, but ultimately was hospitalized for six weeks, then placed into a skill-nursing facility and later an assisted-living facility, according to the FBI.
A man diagnosed by Helms with Lyme disease was suffering from prostate cancer, Darvas said,
Each alleged victim -- referred to Helms through other alternative practitioners -- is out about $6,000, according to Darvas.
Helms is charged with multiple counts of treating the sick without a certificate and grand theft and faces nearly 13 years in prison if convicted. A bail review was scheduled Monday and a preliminary hearing for Aug. 28.
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