Rehab boss faces culpable homicide charge
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Durban - In early November, a 26-year-old Canadian man flew to South Africa to undergo treatment for his drug addiction.
Two days after he was admitted to an unlicensed Durban facility, he was dead.
On Wednesday, a Durban dentist was arrested by the Hawks in connection with the man’s death. He has appeared in court on a charge of culpable homicide.
The dentist, Anwar Jeewa, has indicated that he will plead not guilty to the charge, but confirmed that he ran a rehabilitation facility known as Minds Alive Wellness Centre.
A post-mortem established that the Canadian had overdosed on Alprazolam (Xanax).
But a toxicological report also showed levels of ibogaine, a naturally occurring substance found in certain plants which has been touted as a miracle cure for drug addiction.
Ibogaine is outlawed in some countries, owing to a lack of research.
What research there is on ibogaine apparently suggests that it should not be used for the treatment of abuse of antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, OxyContin and morphine.
The man who died in Durban in November - it appears - was on all of these, according to police.
Jeewa - a qualified dentist and the director of Minds Alive “in- patient therapy and wellness centre” in Berea West, Westville - made his first appearance in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday and was released on R200 00 bail.
Lieutenant-Colonel Anton Booysen and a team from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation’s (Hawks) Organised Crime unit swooped on Jeewa at his Sherwood home on Wednesday morning.
Booysen said in his statement - read into the court record on Wednesday - that the administration of ibogaine by a dentist was, in his view, “a serious offence”.
He said the man whose death had led to the culpable homicide charge had found Minds Alive online.
According to the Minds Alive website, it says the facility has, since 2006, been the “leaders” in the field and had treated a “range of chemical dependencies, compulsive behaviours, depression and anxiety with the use of ibogaine therapy”.
Booysen said the man was admitted to Minds Alive on November 5, 2017.
He was seen by Jeewa and started treatment the following day.
A day later, November 7, he died.
Booysen believed he died as a result of poor screening, an incorrect diagnosis and the wrongful administration of ibogaine.
He said it appeared that the man was given ibogaine despite him being on Xanax, OxyContin and morphine.
Booysen said he had read up extensively on ibogaine.
“All of the literature warns that ibogaine is not to be used for the treatment of abuse of antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, OxyContin and morphine, as it states that this can result in respiratory arrest and heart failure,” he said.
He said he believed that the man should have been screened before he was given ibogaine.
“Should the deceased have been checked for benzodiazepines and opiate levels, it would have alarmed the doctors to the levels present, and the patient should then have been weaned off the benzodiazepines and opiates prior to the commencement of ibogaine treatment,” Booysen said.
He said a raid of Jeewa’s premises had turned up large quantities of “brown powder and bark-like powder, presumably ibogaine”, large amounts of ibogaine capsules, large amounts of schedule five and six prescription drugs, unscheduled drugs, illicit drugs and a pad of blank prescriptions which purported to have been signed by another doctor.
“It may be of importance to note that Jeewa is - at best - a self-confessed dentist and not a medical doctor, permitted to prescribe, supervise or control the use of scheduled drugs such as the kind described,” Booysen said.
Jeewa’s bail application was unopposed by the State on Wednesday.
In an affidavit, read into the court record by his attorney, Ronette Govender, Jeewa said he was self-employed and operated a rehabilitation clinic.
He said the clinic was “mostly a non-profit organisation” and that his earnings were about R10 000 a month.
He was married and had two children, Jeewa said.
“I am the sole supporter of my family and provide financial support to the 20 people who work for me,” he said.
He said he had no previous convictions or pending cases and said he did not resist arrest and co-operated fully with police.
He said he had also handed his passport to police.
As part of his bail conditions, Jeewa was ordered to report to his local police station twice weekly until his case was finalised.
He was also ordered to cease operations at Minds Alive until his case was finalised or he was issued with a licence.
The case was adjourned to April for further investigation.