Sydney doctor struck off for seven years after ‘quack’ medical treatment led to a patient’s death
A doctor has been struck off the medical register for at least seven years over his treatment of five patients, including the administration of stem cell therapy on two of these patients—one of whom died.
The doctor, who trained in New Zealand and registered in Australia in 1974, had initially worked in general practice.
From 2000 until he surrendered his registration on 31 August 2019, he had engaged in cosmetic practice in Sydney.
On 9 November 2012, the practitioner performed stem cell therapy on a patient (patient E) who had sought treatment to help improve his bilateral vestibular dysfunction (BVD).
Patient E was told the treatment was “100% safe” but had no recollection of signing consent forms at either consultation or on the day of the procedure.
“He did not tell me that stem cell therapy is experimental or explain the risks, other than to say there might be some weeping after the procedure,” Patient E told the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which found the doctor’s administration of stem cell therapy for BVD was “experimental and demonstrated a lack of appropriate care”.
On 20 December 2013, the practitioner performed stem cell therapy on another patient (Patient D), a 75-year-old woman with frontal lobe dementia, hypertension and atrial fibrillation.
She was discharged that evening to her nursing home, however within just a few hours, at 7.45pm, she was pronounced deceased.
Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon found Patient D died due to hypovolemic shock following uncontrolled blood loss caused by mini liposuction stem cell procedure performed on her by the practitioner.
Patient D’s general practitioner had completed a patient medical history form on 21 November 2013 that disclosed Patient D was taking aspirin as a blood thinner.
A few days before the procedure, a copy of Patient D’s medication chart had also been faxed to the doctor from her nursing home, which disclosed that her medications included aspirin and krill oil daily.
The doctor reported that he had a conversation with Patient D’s relative saying the patient should cease use of aspirin four days prior to the planned surgery. However this relative had no recollection of this instruction.
No inquiries were made by the practitioner prior to commencing the stem cell procedure about whether Patient D had ceased taking her medication.
Patient D’s nursing home records disclose that she took all of her medications on the morning of the surgery.
Her medical records immediately after the stem cell procedure disclosed her fluctuating blood pressure and heart rate, however she had still been discharged back to her nursing home.
An expert witness, who is a professor in the field of dementia research, was “highly critical” of the practitioner’s treatment of Patient D with stem cell therapy.
“There is no evidence that intravenous stem cell therapy for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is safe,” he stated in his report.
A second expert witness said aspirin should have ceased aspirin 5-7 days before surgery, and that Patient D was a “poor selection for a risky procedure with no reasonable chance of success”.
He said the patient should have been referred to hospital after the surgery.
The tribunal accepted that Patient D lacked capacity to provide consent and her close relation, who had Enduring Power of Attorney, had not been adequately warned of the risks of the procedure including haemorrhage and death.
They also agreed with the comments of Deputy State Coroner Dillon that Patient D’s treatment was analogous to “quack” medicine.
In addition to the above complaints, the practitioner was found to have inappropriately prescribed peptides to three patients (Patients A, B and C) as well as peptides, S4 and S8 drugs himself.
The doctor, who did not attend the hearing, did not admit that he was guilty of professional misconduct.
However the tribunal found the complaints, particularly the case of Patient D, disclosed a “reckless disregard for patient safety … of a sufficiently serious nature to justify the cancellation of the practitioner’s registration.”
He was found guilty of professional misconduct and his registration would have been cancelled, had he been registered at the date of the hearing.
The doctor may not seek a review of this cancellation order for a period of seven years.
He was ordered to pay costs to the Health Care Complaints Commission.