Stem cell doctor guilty of breaching good practice

A doctor who exploited "vulnerable" multiple sclerosis patients by exaggerating the benefits of stem cell therapy faces being struck off after his fitness to practise was found to be impaired today.

Dr Robert Trossel's actions constituted "repeated and serious breaches" of "many of the essential tenets" of good medical practice, the General Medical Council ruled.

Nine men and women, most of whom were suffering from "incurable conditions", visited Dr Trossel, "desperate" to find some relief for their disease and prepared to raise large sums of money to fund treatment.

But the Dutch-trained doctor, 56, used stem cells which were not designed for human use and exaggerated the benefits of treatment based on "anecdotal and aspirational information", according to the GMC's Fitness to Practise Panel.

The panel concluded today that his fitness to practise was impaired by reason of misconduct.

Submissions will be made on behalf of the GMC and Dr Trossel on September 27 to allow the panel to decide on sanctions.

The panel heard that, after hearing the findings of fact in April, Dr Trossel had a "change of heart" and admitted he had been "too enthusiastic" about the use of stem cell therapy.

But he said he would continue to recommend aqua tilis therapy - described as treatment in a steam room with a therapeutic MRI machine - making it clear to patients at his Rotterdam clinic that it was "totally unproven".

Besides his Preventief Medisch Centrum clinic, Dr Trossel had consulting rooms in Wimpole Street, central London.

Panel chairman Professor Brian Gomes da Costa said: "It notes that this is a case in which there is a consistent and potentially unsafe thread running throughout its course.

"Despite your assertions that you have reflected on your failings, the panel is concerned that you have demonstrated little insight into the seriousness of your misconduct and the effects this may have had on your patients.

"It cannot conclude that the misconduct found proved will not be repeated.

"The panel has determined that the totality of the facts found proved constitute repeated and serious breaches of many of the essential tenets of 'Good Medical Practice'."

Dr Trossel was found to have offered treatments which were "unjustifiable" on the basis of evidence, inappropriate, not in the best interests of patients and were "exploitative of vulnerable patients".

He also exaggerated the benefits and failed to warn of potential risks, according to the panel.

But he was not found to be dishonest because the panel accepted that the doctor believed the claims.

The panel found that Dr Trossel failed to respect the rights of patients to be fully informed and that he "abused" his position as a doctor.

The nine patients involved in the case are James McCorrisken, Malcolm Pear, Stephen Murphy, Rebecca Parker, Tracy Wagstaff, Karen Galley, Deborah Sandford, Catherine Neal and Anita Knowles - although the allegations against Dr Trossel in relation to Ms Neal and Ms Knowles were found not proved at an earlier hearing.

In another case, the GMC said Dr Trossel made false and misleading statements to investigative journalist Barney Calman, who visited his private clinic in London claiming to have Hodgkin's disease in 2006.

The panel also ruled Dr Trossel's fitness to practise was impaired due to a police caution he received in August 2007 after failing to pay for car parking at Stansted Airport in June that year.

Dr Trossel told the hearing that his flight from Holland had been delayed and he was unable to find his ticket or an attendant so he saw "no other option" than to tailgate another vehicle out of the car park.

He agreed to repay £472.50 to NCP after receiving the police caution, the panel heard.

Prof Gomes da Costa said: "The panel takes a serious view of your caution, which was in connection with an offence of dishonesty.

"It considers that you should have been aware of the consequences of your actions of making off without payment and that this conduct would be judged by the medical profession and the public to be a serious breach of the requirement that doctors behave honestly at all times."

In relation to a conviction in Antwerp last year over stem cell treatment offences under Belgian law, the panel ruled that Dr Trossel's fitness to practise was not impaired because the offences were not comparable with English law.