Stem cell doctor Trossel faces being struck off after GMC hearing
The London doctor who carried out stem cell injections on British patients at clinics in Holland and Belgium faces being struck off at the end of the month after a panel at the General Medical Council (GMC) found this morning that his behaviour constituted "repeated and serious breaches of the essential tenets of good medical practice".
The GMC placed restrictions on Dr Robert Trossel's work as a doctor in 2007, after a Newsnight investigation in 2006 which revealed that he was injecting patients with stem cells not intended for human use, but for research purposes only.
After a lengthy hearing process, the GMC panel said today that Dr Trossel's fitness to practice as a doctor is impaired, stating that it is concerned that he had: "demonstrated little insight into the seriousness of your misconduct and the effects this may have had on your patients," adding that it was not convinced that his misconduct will not be repeated.
A decision on whether or not Dr Trossel will be "struck off" or face lesser sanctions, such as suspension, is expected at the end of September. His patients paid around £10,000 or more for stem cell injections for a variety of conditions ranging from spinal injury to multiple sclerosis. Families raided pension funds, or organised fund-raising events among friends and local communities to find the money.
The GMC case involves nine such patients, some of whom gave evidence during the hearing. Many had reached Dr Trossel after contacting a web-based company operating out of South Africa, called Advanced Cell Therapeutics (ACT).
Newsnight established in 2006 that ACT was run by a couple called Stephen Van Rooyen and Laura Brown, who are still wanted by the FBI for stem cell fraud under an extradition arrangement with South Africa. They failed in an appeal against that earlier this year, and patients in South Africa are currently pursuing their own case against the pair.
In April, in its "findings of fact", the GMC found that Dr Trossel was "taking unfair advantage of vulnerable patients and was therefore exploitative of them"
It ruled that he: "exaggerated the benefits of the treatment, overstated the success rate in treating patients with MS, and failed to inform patients fully of what was contained in the freeze medium in which the stem cells were delivered, namely that it contained bovine calf serum".
The panel also concluded that given Dr Trossel's state of mind and his "actual belief" at the time, his actions were "not dishonest".
The panel said Dr Trossel's offer of such treatments was "unjustifiable on the basis of the available scientific or clinical medical evidence, inappropriate, not in the best interest of the patients and was exploitative of a vulnerable patient. It was therefore an abuse of his position as a doctor".
Dr Trossel has already admitted that he did not inform some of his UK patients that he was separately injecting them with additional material which included bovine brain and spinal cord. The panel therefore found that informed consent could not have been given, an omission which the panel today described as "serious".
The doctor had earlier told the panel that he had since had a "change of heart" about stem cell therapy, and that he should have been more careful in the advice he'd given to patients about its efficacy. He also said he regretted not having followed up patients with more scrutiny.
Dr Trossel, whose wife is TV diet doctor Wendy Denning, admitted many of the facts of the case, but in his defence he has argued that he stopped injections as soon as the Newsnight investigation made the origin of the stem cells clear.