Drugged, Drowned on Spirit Retreat, Mom Says

Courthouse News/June 9, 2014

By Mike Heur

Las Vegas -- A man drugged with ayahuasca drowned on a "guided meditation" during a "personal growth retreat" led by a "hypnotherapist, minister, licensed spiritual health coach and author," his mother claims in court.
Laura Dickson claims her 29-year-old son Garth was under the influence of ayahuasca, a hallucinogen, when he walked into Shasta Lake and drowned at a White Flame Institute retreat led by co-defendant Bonnie Serratore.
Garth Dickson drowned on June 7, 2012, his mother says in the lawsuit.
Serratore is the owner and manager of the White Flame Institute, according to the complaint. It states: "Bonne is a natural born intuitive specializing in healing core emotional wounding and subconscious belief systems, from this life and past. She is the founder and director of the White Flame Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada and of the previous ReNascent Center in Sonoma, Calif. She is a certified clinical hypnotherapist, minister, and licensed spiritual health coach and author of 'The Way Back Home: Clearing the Energy of Our Emotional Wounding.'"
Garth and at least five others at the retreat paid Serratore for "guided meditations and activities created and supervised by Bonnie Serratore," Disckson says.
The "healing regimen" involves provoking "painful, embarrassing and uncomfortable experiences and memories on the part of her clients to 'clear' them of obstacles and blocks that prevent them from living a 'thriving and abundant life full of joy."
The complaint continues: "Garth Andrew Wallace Dickson was participating in this activity while under the influence of an extremely powerful hallucinogen, ayahuasca, which is a high concentrated long lasting dimethyltryptamine derivative.
 "Plaintiff is informed and believes that consuming ayahuasca was a feature of this retreat. The active ingredient of ayahuasca, DMT, was found in a significant concentration in Garth's blood."
"Plaintiff is informed and believes that the use of ayahuasca was encouraged by Bonnie Serratore as a tool for accomplishing the healing advertised by Bonnie and sought by the retreatants.
"Plaintiff alleges that Bonnie Serratore negligently encouraged the use of ayahuasca, negligently supervised the retreatants during the meditations, and has neither the qualifications, the skill, nor experience that a person sponsoring these types of retreats should have. ... Consequently, Bonnie Serratore's negligence and lack of training, care, and experience caused the death of Garth Andrew Wallace Dickson.
 Ayahuasca was discovered long ago by Amazonian tribes who use it in shamanistic rituals.
"As the sponsor of the retreat and as a self-proclaimed shaman, Bonnie Serratore had a duty to be qualified and experienced in the safe and successful operation of the retreat," Dickson says. "Bonnie Serratore breached this duty by negligently supervising the retreatants, and by allowing the use of the hallucinogen ... during the retreat."
Serratore founded the White Flame Institute in 2012, and offers courses "in-depth training on powerful shamanic healing techniques developed by Bonnie Serratore, master shaman," according to the company website.
Dickson seeks damages for wrongful death, negligence and pain and suffering. She is represented by J. Mitchell Cobeaga in Clark County Court.

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