Martin Daly and Leonie Wood
Hellfried Sartori, the discredited Austrian doctor, after he was arrested in Thailand this week.
HELLFRIED Sartori, the convicted felon and discredited Austrian
doctor who used industrial solvent as a remedy for terminal
illnesses, has a history of alleged fraud, corruption and
malpractice spanning more than two decades in 14 American
Known in the US as the notorious Dr Ozone, Sartori served five
years jail in Virginia from 1999 and nine months in a New York jail
His unorthodox health remedies are being investigated in
connection with the deaths of cancer sufferers in Australia and
Sartori was arrested in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai
this week and charged with fraud and practising medicine without a
licence. He claims he has committed no crime.
WA police are also interested in Sartori's practices. They are
waiting for results of toxicology and pathology tests obtained from
post mortems of seven cancer patients in Perth who died in quick
succession in May and June 2005.
Sartori was not in Australia at the time; he had been barred
from entering the country in May 2005. But police are investigating
if the six Australians and one American patient who died in Perth
received treatments by local adherents of Sartori's radical
US legal sources revealed that Sartori eluded a possible long
jail term in the late 1980s when the family of a US patient, who
died after enduring his treatment, refused to have him charged with
manslaughter because they were too distressed.
"He would be still in jail now had he been convicted of
manslaughter in Virginia where the charges were brought," said a
legal source close to the case. "He would have got 20 years."
That would have seriously curtailed the damage the disgraced
medico inflicted on patients in several US states and overseas.
Hellfried Erwin Sartori, also known as Hellfried Eric Sartori or
Professor Abdul-Haqq Sartori, migrated to the States in 1976. He
was arrested and jailed three times over the next 25 years on
various charges, including practising medicine without a
Sartori is hailed by some of his terminally ill patients as a
potential saviour. To others, he is cynical and motivated by greed
as he inflicts great pain on patients using processes that have no
According to one lawyer who prosecuted him for practising
without a licence, Sartori had promised patients his medicine
"would cure anything". He won supporters among the terminally ill
and their families who believed they had been deserted by
Another lawyer, Glenn Franklin Koonst, who defended Sartori in a
criminal trial in Virginia, said: "He was convinced of his ability
to cure people. He really believed in what he was doing."
One of Sartori's treatments involved injecting patients with
dimethylsulfoxide, or DMSO, a controversial solvent believed by
some to ease the pain of arthritis. He also injected caesium
chloride and ozone into cancer patients, flushed their bowels with
coffee enemas and intravenously administered super-high doses of
vitamins and minerals.
One US legal source told The Age how Sartori laughed as
an anguished family called an ambulance after a patient
"He was a greedy, arrogant man who thought he could do no
wrong," said the former associate. "He talked about helping people
but he has no hesitation in charging people heavily for his
services. He didn't do anything for nothing.
"They caught him eventually and put him in jail. But a lot of
other people who are just as guilty as him got away. They are the
people who bankrolled him, who set him up in clinics and who gave
him the infrastructure to do this. He could not have done this on
"As soon as he was arrested in Virginia, they (Sartori's
supporters) closed down the clinic and skipped town, along with the
money they made from Sartori."
Todd Sanders, the lawyer who successfully prosecuted Sartori in
Virginia, seven years ago, told The Age this week that he
was saddened to learn Sartori had continued to practise overseas,
despite his long and well documented history of strike-outs in the
Mr Sanders, now with the Leesburg, Virginia, law firm Sanders
& Kissler, noted that the judge and the jury had been
determined that Sartori would serve his full jail term without
remission or parole.
He said Sartori had caused untold suffering. Two victims told
the court of great pain they suffered during the treatment and how
one of them, as a result, had suffered a stroke and the other a
He said prosecutors at one stage wanted to pursue a possible
manslaughter charge, but the family of a patient who had died
declined to give evidence at the trial because the ordeal would be
"You can understand that," he said. "The person (who died) was
so terminally ill that had he (Sartori) been charged (with
manslaughter), he would have said that person would have died
He has reportedly advertised himself in Washington as a
specialist in 25 fields of medicine, including pediatrics,
psychiatry, gastroenterology, child neurology, rheumatology,
pulmonary disease and aerospace medicine.
In 1981, the Maryland Medical Commission reviewed Sartori's
practices and eventually found that he had relied on invalidated
and "medically inappropriate" techniques that might "endanger the
patient's health, safety and welfare".
It ruled he was "professionally incompetent" and banned him from
practising medicine in that state.
Sartori told The Washington Post at the time that he was
being "persecuted by the forces of traditional medicine".
But before the Maryland ban was imposed, Sartori had shifted
interstate with tragic results for his unsuspecting
The problem with keeping track of banned doctors in the US is
that the state-based medical boards are often secretive, and
information about dangerous medicos is given only to a few
agencies, hospitals and other medical boards.
Public Citizen, a US non-profit consumer advocacy organisation,
has catalogued Sartori's numerous strike-outs.
Its records show Sartori was disciplined by regulators in
Maryland in September 1984, Virginia revoked his licence in 1985,
Pennsylvania in 1985, and Texas in 1987.
He also was sanctioned by Utah authorities.
In 1986, the US Medicare system barred him for 10 years for
making excessive claims or furnishing unnecessary or substandard
Sartori faced trial in Fairfax, Virginia, in 1999 for practising
medicine without a licence and the court heard how he injected
patients several times a day with ozone. Sartori did not give
evidence, though his supporters did.
His lawyer at the time, Mr Koonst, told The Age there was
a "religious fervour" about the supporters. "They were almost
cult-like in their belief in his knowledge and wisdom."
The court, however, ordered Sartori to serve two jail terms,
each of 2½ years.
In sentencing, the judge noted Sartori had already been
convicted for practising without a licence, yet he "went ahead and
continued to do it, continued to practice medicine
law doesn't protect the weak and the sick and the helpless, then
the law fails."