A Bowling Green man accused of killing naturopathic doctor Juan Sanchez Gonzalez had, at the time of Gonzalez’s death, an active lawsuit filed against Gonzalez in Warren Circuit Court alleging that Gonzalez guaranteed he could cure the man’s wife of cancer.
Omer Ahmetovic, 35,, was charged Wednesday with murder, according to court files.
Ahmetovic’s wife, Fikreta Ibrisevic, died Feb. 27, according to the Warren County Coroner’s Office.
Ahmetovic is being held in the Warren County Regional Jail in lieu of a $1 million bond. A hearing is scheduledfor Wednesday in Warren District Court.
The Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine was open Friday evening when someone walked in and found Gonzalez inside, unresponsive, Bowling Green Police Department spokesman Officer Ronnie Ward said. Gonzalez operated the center at 1022 U.S. 31-W By-Pass. His official date of death is listed as Friday, Warren County Deputy Coroner David Goens said.
‘Chemotherapy is for losers’
Ibrisevic was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer, in late 2015 to early 2016, according to the lawsuit. The couple were interested in natural therapies while Ibrisevic waited to be scheduled for the beginning of traditional cancer treatments.
On or near Jan. 11, 2016, Gonzalez told the couple that traditional cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy were for “uneducated” people and he could “guarantee” Ibrisevic would be cancer free with his treatments within three months, according to the lawsuit. He is further accused of telling Ibrisevic that “chemotherapy is for losers.”
Ibrisevic began treatments which included buying herbs from Gonzalez, massages, foot soaks, dietary instructions and other treatments. From January through May 2016, Ibrisevic and Ahmetovic paid Gonzalez and Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine more than $7,000 for the treatments and herbs, according to the lawsuit.
When Ibrisevic began treatment, she had one tumor. When she discontinued treatment with Gonzalez she had seven tumors, according to the lawsuit.
“The original tumor became so large to the extent that it was visible outside of her body,” according to the lawsuit. “Her eyes began to turn yellow and her legs began to swell. After she discontinued treatment with the defendants, after one round of traditional chemotherapy, the only tumor that remained was the original tumor.”
Ahmetovic and Ibrisevic consulted with two naturopathic experts during the course of treatment with Gonzalez. Both concluded that Gonzalez “administered too many herbs,” which caused Ibrisevic to have a toxic reaction to them, the lawsuit said.
Ahmetovic and Ibrisevic filed suit against Gonzalez on Jan. 25.
‘Vulnerable to being misled’
The suit accuses Gonzalez and the Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine of negligence, fraud, violation of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act, loss of consortium of spouse and children, lack of informed consent, battery, practicing medicine without a license and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In alleging negligence, the couple asserted Gonzalez provided services and herbs “without adequate scientific or medical foundation when compared to substantial risk involved,” which Ahmetovic and Ibrisevic were not told and by his criticism of traditional cancer treatments as being ineffective. Ahmetovic and Ibrisevic also accused Gonzalez of failing to use reasonable care in the herbs provided, causing toxic levels that prevented her body from being able to heal.
The fraud allegation accuses Gonzalez of misleading Ahmetovic and Ibrisevic regarding his qualifications and his ability to treat cancer patients.
Ahmetovic and Ibrisevic are Bosnian refugees and English is not their native language, making them “more vulnerable to being misled,” according to the suit. As a result of that and other statements included in the lawsuit, they claim a lack of informed consent in that they were not informed of the risks of treatment provided by Gonzalez and in foregoing traditional cancer treatment.
The lawsuit also said Gonzalez violated state law in practicing medicine without a license. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Gonzalez wanted to ‘provide healing’
Gonzalez’s office website shows he was a graduate of the Trinity School of Natural Health in Warsaw, Ind., and a U.S. Army veteran who retired in Fort Knox. He also held an MBA from Western Kentucky University, according to his website.
“Prior to becoming a naturopathic doctor I was a clinical administrator and consultant. During my career as a clinical administrator, I was diagnosed with diabetes and discovered that western medicine as a whole could not heal this condition” Gonzalez said on his website. “This prompted me to find a way to provide healing not just for me but for everyone.”
Under the “Healing Crisis” menu on Gonzalez’s website at the bottom of the page is a disclaimer.
“Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your medical doctor. The Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine does not dispense medical advice, prescribe or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by The Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service,” according to the disclaimer.
In a Feb. 6 response to the lawsuit filed by Gonzalez’s attorney Currie Milliken, he asked for the suit to be dismissed on the grounds that it “does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
The response also denies all of the allegations of wrongdoing. Gonzalez’s response said Ahmetovic and Ibrisevic made decisions based on a “full and complete disclosure and were made of the plaintiffs’ own volition.”
Milliken further asked for cost recovery for his client.