Oncologist Accused of Covering-up Giving Chemo Against Instructions

Chris Jaffray 

September 15, 2020

Editor's note, 16 September 2020: This article was updated to correct Dr Eva Carneiro's title.

MANCHESTER—A world leading cancer doctor gave chemotherapy against the instructions of his supervision team and then falsified a record to cover his tracks, a tribunal has heard. 

Justin Stebbing, professor of cancer medicine and oncology at Imperial College London who also has a private practice in Harley Street, is consulted by wealthy people from around the world because he is known to fight cancer right to the end. He's appearing before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) in Manchester where he faces accusations, which he denies, that could ruin his reputation.

It is alleged he failed to provide good clinical care to 11 patients between March 2014 and March 2017 by not properly disclosing the risk of treatments and not fully examining patients.
 

 

Allegations

The allegations against him relating to the final two patients he is accused of mistreating were outlined by General Medical Council (GMC) counsel Sharon Beattie yesterday with Prof Stebbing sat opposite taking notes.

His own representative, Mary O'Rourke QC who has represented Chelsea FC sport and exercise specialist Dr Eva Carneiro in her bitter dispute with former boss Jose Mourinho, and Dr Richard Freeman, British Cycling doctor accused of ordering a prohibited substance for an athlete, appeared through a video call.

Ms Beattie said one patient, known as Patient L, had been a long-term cancer patient when admitted under Prof Stebbing to the private Princess Grace Hospital in London on March 16 2017.

She said Patient L had been diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer in 2013 and had previously undergone chemotherapy including in November the previous year.

She said: "It was thereafter in March 2017 the patient was admitted to Princess Grace Hospital, he had other issues, there was
poor nutrition."

Ms Beattie said it was alleged that Prof Stebbing consulted with two supervisors, who she referred to as Dr S and Professor H, about whether chemotherapy could be provided but they both said it would not be appropriate given the poor state of the patient.
She said that the policy was Prof Stebbing would inform his supervisors of proposed treatment and they would approve or decline it.

"In respect of that request there was a box asking whether or not there had been an MDT (multidisciplinary team).
"It was on the 19th of March and the box had been ticked."

But she alleged the MDT did not in fact take place until March 30 and Prof Stebbing, it was later discovered, had requested it be backdated to March 16.

The report made reference to a CT Scan that took place on March 22, which he also chose to have omitted.

The tribunal heard the chemotherapy went ahead and that the patient died on April 7.

The panel also heard allegations that Prof Stebbing took Patient O from Aberdeen, who had lung cancer and could get no further treatment in Scotland, gave him chemotherapy despite his daughter's concerns about the dosage, and sent him back with no follow-up plan.

His daughter, who will be giving evidence to the tribunal, went with her father to London when he was admitted to Princess Grace on March 3.

There was a plan to proceed to chemotherapy if the patient was well but it was noted the patient was "in a low mood and wanted to return to Scotland".

The daughter claims she was concerned about the dosage being 75% rather than 100% and when she confronted the Professor about it he said: "Just leave the dosage to me darling."

The chemotherapy took place on March 15 and the patient then returned home before being admitted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) 7 days later.  

The GMC alleges there was no proper record made of the treatment given and those who dealt with Patient O in Scotland were unaware what he had received.

Ms Beattie said this fell below what was expected of a doctor but "not significantly below".

The patient died on May 7 2017.

Disclosing Risks

Prof Stebbing is also accused of failing to disclose properly the risks of further treatment to this patient.

Summing up the allegations Ms Beattie said the professor accepted no fault in and of his practice and said "treatment rules of good medical practice apply to everyone however eminent they may be".

But Ms O'Rourke hit back briefly, saying: "The chronology is not an agreed document.

"The opening has been highly selective, many decisions in evidence will go in favour of Prof Stebbing.

"Witness statements of twenty plus witnesses have not been referred to, including a number of relatives of patients."

Prof Stebbing denies all the accusations against him.

The tribunal, before Chair Hassan Khan, will resume on Wednesday.

Editor's note, 17 September 2020: There more on the MPTS hearing here.

Chris Jaffray is a freelance journalist experienced in covering MPTS hearings.

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