MS treatments doctor 'should be struck off'

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A doctor who exploited the desperation of multiple sclerosis patients by injecting them with "pointless" stem cell treatments should be struck off the medical register, a disciplinary hearing was told today.

Dr Robert Trossel, 56, has failed to give patients refunds for the thousands of pounds they spent on treatment at his clinic in Rotterdam, Holland, the General Medical Council (GMC) heard.

Tom Kark, for the GMC, spoke of the patients' "anger and sense of being let down" after being offered a "mirage" of treatment by Dr Trossel.

He told the GMC fitness to practise panel that Dr Trossel, who trained in Holland, should be struck off.

"They were all vulnerable patients who already found themselves failed by the medical profession in this country and as a result were searching, some with desperation, for a cure or relief elsewhere, which is why and how they ended up in Dr Trossel's hands," Mr Kark told the GMC.

"They were given false hope by him and the experience not only cost them financially but for the most part it caused them personal and emotional loss when they realised that the treatment provided to them was not only expensive but pointless."

Dr Trossel has been found by the GMC fitness to practise panel to have injected five MS patients between August 2004 and August 2006 with a substance said to contain stem cells, a move described as medically unjustifiable, "inappropriate" and exploitative of vulnerable patients.

Two of these patients, along with another MS patient, were advised by Dr Trossel to undergo a treatment called Aqua Tilis therapy - described as involving a steam room with an MRI machine.

The panel said this was also scientifically "unjustifiable" and exploitative.

Earlier this month the panel ruled his actions constituted "repeated and serious" breaches of many of the "essential tenets" of good medical practice and that his fitness to practise was impaired.

Robert Jay, QC, defending Dr Trossel, described him as a "genuine and compassionate" medical practitioner, and said the GMC had not found dishonesty in his case.

He said Dr Trossel was "neither driven by love of money nor love of self" and had made it clear to patients that stem cell treatment was an experimental and untested therapy.

"What we have here is a doctor who practised for many years, by inference safely, in areas with which he was comfortable and in which he was fully competent to practise - and then for a period, straying too far from that safe path and, like Icarus, flying to close to the sun," he said.

"That period in his professional and personal life has ended."

The patients, the majority of whom were suffering from the "progressive and aggressive" form of the disabling neurological disease, raised thousands of pounds to fund the therapy, in many cases through donations or sponsored events, the GMC has heard.

But Dr Trossel 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 panel.

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

Dr Trossel was found to have offered treatments to seven patients which were "unjustifiable" on the basis of evidence, inappropriate, not in the best interests of patients and "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 patients involved in the case are James McCorrisken, Malcolm Pear, Stephen Murphy, Rebecca Parker, Tracy Wagstaff, Karen Galley and Deborah Sandford.

Allegations against Dr Trossel in relation to two more patients - Catherine Neal and Anita Knowles - were found not proved.

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.

The panel has retired to consider what sanctions to impose on Dr Trossel.