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Back-room medical treatments like the one that killed Elena Caro are now under intense scrutiny in Nevada. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is leading a task force to recommend reforms for what she says has become a cultural issue for minorities, specifically Hispanics.
“They hear of someone who claims to be a licensed doctor who can provide some sort of service to them, so they trust them,” says Masto. “Usually it’s in a back room somewhere, whether it’s a tile store or one of these botanicas.”
Masto says that not only is the practitioner unlicensed, but they’re often operating under unsterile conditions. And they’re not just performing enhancement procedures like the one that led to Caro’s death.
“There’s dental care that has been undertaken that took place in the practitioners home on his couch, that went wrong,” says Masto.
Dr. Tracey Green, a state health officer who handles medical fraud explains that the appeal of unlicensed practitioners to minority communities can often be traced to family ties.
“If grandma or grandpa has received a procedure from an unlicensed person, they make recommendations within the community and to each other,” says Green. “If a family member was lucky enough to have a successful procedure, then they are more likely to go to that same practitioner.”
State health officials including Masto and Green believe that outreach and education are the best solutions for encouraging consumers to seek out legitimate and affordable medical practitioners.