Castries, Saint Lucia, Saturday October 9, 2021:– A popular Saint Lucian herbal doctor is drawing on The Law to make a virtual Do-or-Die case next week before a jury of her peers.
Dr Gilbertha St Rose has been summoned by the island’s Medical Council to appear before it this coming Wednesday (October 13), accused of promoting and prescribing an unapproved drug to fight COVID-19.
A herbalist, dermatologist and integrated health specialist, she admits promoting the controversial drug Ivermectin, even asking that it be added to the list of approved medicines to fight COVID-19.
But the controversial drug isn’t approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and not on the locally-approved list.
Not satisfied her peers had roundly rejected her proposal to recognize Ivermectin, Dr St Rose continued recommending it publicly — until the local health authorities intervened.
The Council, Chaired by Dr Andre Matthew, licenses practitioners and oversees their practice locally, summoned Dr St Rose, accusing her of “professional misconduct”.
It’s also demanding a satisfactory explanation, failing which her license can be revoked.
Not a stranger to controversy on medical issues, the doctor indicated earlier this week that she’s ready for the fight.
In combat mode, she told HTS News on Wednesday (October 6) she’d been trying “since March” to get the local medical authorities to approve Ivermectin.
“I was disappointed,” she said, “and I went in my corner….”
She continued, “…We have been using the herbs to try to prevent it, but they didn’t want to hear… I discovered Ivermectin [and] I brought it to them [but] they didn’t want to hear….”
“But,” she declared, “Now we’ve come to the point where they want to penalize me and execute me for using it…”
“Hello,” the normally quiet doctor exclaimed, “They’ve gone too far…
“I’m a peacemaker, but there’s a time for fighting…”
Dr St Rose has secured support and defense publicly, as well as criticism.
Veteran Human Rights attorney Mary Francis earlier this week urged “caution”, as the doctor’s career is on the line.
There’s also a public petition, while some supporters are calling online “for the hearing to be made public…” and others for “names of the members of the Medical Council” to be “exposed”.
However, much of the debate is over whether Ivermectin is effective against COVID-19, or not.
A slew of reports earlier this week — in response to apparent increasing demand for Ivermectin in the USA — claimed earlier approved trials were now proven false or inconclusive and its original makers (Merck) were also quoted as saying Ivermectin’s ineffective against COVID.
But the doctor’s online supporters cling to their belief that the unapproved drug works and claim she’s being “persecuted by the State” only because she “dares to challenge” the COVID vaccines developed by multinational pharmaceutical corporations (Big Pharma)…”
Supporters also claim Ivermectin cleansed the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh from COVID, but the WHO says there isn’t enough evidence to support such claims and it should not be used “outside of clinical trials”.
The doctor’s defenders argue there’s “room at the table” (on the Council) for an Integrated Health Specialist, but critics argue she might have violated the sacred Hippocratic Oath that doctors adopt as a lifelong life-saving pledge.
Dr St Rose says she’s very encouraged by the level of public support to date, as her actions are “for our people”.
But there are also fellow health professionals who argue that while the arguments are mainly based on whether Ivermectin works against COVID-19 or not, the real case at hand is an allegation that a registered medical practitioner consciously broke the written rules.
“There’s a whole difference between making a mistake and repeating something you know is legally wrong,” said one Health Ministry official with an understanding of the issues, but speaking only on condition of anonymity.
“We at the Ministry of health and Wellness and members of the Medical Association and the Medical Council are being made to look like we have something personal against Dr St. Rose and her supporters are crucifying us in the Social Media, as if we are betraying her.
“We’re only doing our job…”
But, she added, “It’s also simply elementary to understand that if a drug is not officially approved, it should not be prescribed just because a doctor believes it should be approved…
“I’m sorry, that’s not how it works in the medical profession…”
Dr St Rose also disclosed this week that at Wednesday’s hearing her lawyers will seek “further clarification” from the Council on the charges, to prepare her defense.
But while her supporters are upbeat, some independent legal minds here are uncertain.
One paralegal officer described it as “A big case with little chance of success for the accused…”, while another feels “The Council will most-likely argue according to what the law says and not what she believes…”
The speculation about Dr St Rose’s legal chances stretches near and far.
But on this the final weekend before a hearing that could very-much affect her future practice, Dr St Rose’s levels of anxiety will, this weekend, either high on confidence or low on expectations.
Forced to draw on the law, the herbalist in the certified medical practitioner will be weighing their chances before a Council expected to clinically dissect Dr St. Rose’s legal arguments with nothing but surgical precision.
Her supporters will spend the fifth consecutive Lockdown Sunday reviewing her case and previewing possible defense options, while Council members will likely also prepare for the delicate operation of prosecuting a fellow health professional accused of knowingly engaging in legally-improper behavior.
But win or lose, Dr St Rose will make history as the first local doctor (and possibly in the Caribbean), formally accused, and charged professionally prosecuted for promoting an unapproved drug for treatment of COVID.
And her case will be heard, not by a court of law, but by a judge and jury of peers.