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The oncologist who both patients called “God” and “Doctor Hope.”


Nicknamed “God” and “Doctor Hope” by grateful patients today, oncologists have avoided being written off for offering inappropriate treatments after testimony from the celebrities who nurtured them and the personal support of “Lockdown Professor” Neil Ferguson.

Professor Justin Stebbing, 50, was pardoned by the Medical Practitioners Service Tribunal (MPTS), which instead suspended him for nine months after acknowledging ‘unprecedented evidence’ presented on his behalf.

In October, the world-renowned oncologist admitted to failing more than a dozen patients between 2014 and 2017, including overtreating some on the verge of death or completely failing to explain the risks.

But it was supported – among others – by fellow Imperial College colleague Neil Ferguson, who wrote: “I urge you to impose a more lenient punishment for such transgressions that he may have committed.

“As far as I can see his lapses have been insignificant in relation to the tremendous good he has done as a medical scientist and physician.”

Professor Justin Stebbing. In October, the world-renowned oncologist admitted to failing more than a dozen patients between 2014 and 2017, including over-treating some on the verge of death or completely failing to explain the risks.

An unnamed celebrity said, “He’s a world-class oncologist. With the history of my case, it’s no surprise that I feel I owe my quality of life and my life itself to Professor Stebbing’s care and I believe the standard treatment would have my children lost to their mother while they were still children in school.”

I’ve made living with the fear of cancer and more recently the fear of succumbing to Covid – these are unwelcome gifts from Mother Nature.

But the organization protecting safety unnecessarily added a man-made fear of losing the care of this lifesaving oncologist.

“I am upset that removing his license could even be a consideration, especially when there are fewer penalties that can be imposed.”

The court heard how his “international reputation” for his innovative treatment of cancer led wealthy cancer patients from around the world to turn to him in the hope of extending their lives.

They include Sir Michael Parkinson, actor Linda Bellingham and New Zealand millionaire Sir Douglas Myers.

Professor Stebbing has been accused of failing to provide quality clinical care to 12 patients between March 2014 and March 2017.

He initially sought to defend many of his clinical decisions but eventually pleaded guilty to 30 of the 36 charges against him and convicted three others.

Failures included “inappropriate” treatment of patients in light of their cancer progression or poor prognosis, exaggeration of life expectancy and benefits of chemotherapy and continuing to treat patients when it is not feasible.

He also admitted not obtaining informed consent for treatment from patients, failing to keep proper records and dishonesty after trying to conceal his traces by altering paperwork.

The court ruled in November that Professor Stebbing’s fitness to practice had been affected by his misconduct with all 12 patients.

The General Medical Council said Professor Stebbing has prescribed the wrong drugs outside standard medical protocols, often to debilitated patients.  Pictured above with the late Sir Roger Moore

The General Medical Council said Professor Stebbing has prescribed the wrong drugs outside standard medical protocols, often to debilitated patients. Pictured above with the late Sir Roger Moore

I’ve focused on the often harrowing details of each patient’s struggle with cancer, with evidence from dozens of witnesses, including patients’ families, experts and Professor Stebbing himself.

He noted “Lazarus-like responses” to treatment among some of his other patients and described how he handled difficult and difficult cases “to try to change the certainty of death.”

But a frequent theme in the case was patients receiving treatment despite disease progression, deterioration, or poor prognosis, and most of the 12 patients died within a month.

The experts invited by GMC spoke of the need to use evidence-based medicine, to learn about treatment limitations and to have “honest and open” conversations with patients and their families to help them make difficult decisions about end-of-life care.

But he argued that he thought about his past mistakes and was in a “modest” and “disciplinary” educational experience.

He said he was wrong about treating patients, despite wanting to give them “a chance” or “hope”, and he was now a “very cautious and discreet doctor.”

He said the 12 patients were tough cases, and he used his clinical judgment and “fell on the wrong side” of a fine line in choosing treatment.

Sharon Petty, QC for GMC, sought the erasure penalty arguing that Professor Stebbing had “repeatedly” insisted that clinical issues were “accurate” decisions leading to concerns about his lack of insight and repetition of his behaviour.

She said there were other concerns about “ongoing risk” to patient safety, and embarked on a “steady course of behavior” and “persistent deception” that it was trying to cover up.

Professor Stebbing sought to avoid a more serious punishment by highlighting his extensive research work, some of which he said was ongoing and near completion, and the detrimental effect it would have on his career.

He said it would be difficult for the projects to continue if they were written off.

Mary O’Rourke, of Professor Stebbing, said she disagreed with the court’s findings on the disability and noted that his condition occurred in “one of the worst periods of his life” when he was struggling with mental health problems.

She said Professor Stebbing had dealt with 12 patients not “for money” but for “the best motives” and “the common good”, even if his actions became misguided.

Professor Stebbing was supported - among others - by fellow Imperial College colleague Neil Ferguson, who wrote: ``I urge you to impose a more lenient punishment for such transgressions that he may have committed.

Professor Stebbing was supported – among others – by fellow Imperial College colleague Neil Ferguson, who wrote: “I urge you to impose a more lenient punishment for such transgressions that he may have committed.

Ms O’Rourke read dozens of testimonies in support of Professor Stebbing from patients and their families, leading oncologists and colleagues who spoke of his ‘genius’, ‘excellence’ and his new research which has won international recognition.

Some claimed it would be an “incredible tragedy” and an “unbelievable and immeasurable” loss if he was unable to continue working.

In delivering the court’s penalty decision, MPTS Chair Margaret Opie indicated that she had considered a number of factors that could justify erasure but there were also factors indicating that a lower suspension penalty would adequately protect the public and the broader public interest.

In addition to the “unprecedented evidence” presented on his behalf, she noted how Professor Stebbing had been suffering from “deteriorating mental health and personal stress” at the time of his dishonesty.

She described the behavior as “uncharacteristic”, saying it happened more than four years ago and has not been repeated.

Ms Obi also noted Prof Stebbing’s significant therapy work and that “there is no evidence of profound failure of attitudes”.

She said the starting point for the suspension was 12 months to indicate the seriousness of his misconduct.

“However, the court has also balanced this with the particular circumstances in this case,” she added.

“The court considered the innovative and pioneering work that Professor Stebbing is currently doing for the public and testimonies from a wide range of people including renowned, award-winning scientists and clinicians from around the world.”

She said that while PS Stebbing argued that his contract with ICL would expire if he was suspended, there was a possibility that ‘due to his unique status and talent’ – as his witnesses noted in testimony – the clinical and academic community in oncology ‘would try to ensure that his work was not interrupted or delayed indefinitely. Unnamed ‘.

Ms Obi added that the Court had taken the view that, given the particular circumstances of this case, there was a general interest in allowing Professor Stebbing to return to practice as soon as possible but the minimum suspension period it could impose in order to determine the seriousness of his misconduct was 9 months.



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