Oncologist Accused of Inappropriate Treatment Awaits Tribunal Decision

Ian Leonard

September 24, 2021

MANCHESTER—Leading oncologist Professor Justin Stebbing will learn next month about the decision of a medical tribunal after facing allegations over his treatment of terminally ill cancer patients.

Prof Stebbing, a cancer medicine and oncology professor at Imperial College London with a private practice in Harley Street, has an international reputation for his innovative treatments which has led to many wealthy cancer patients from around the world turning to him in the hope of extending their lives.

However, he's accused of failing to provide good clinical care to 12 patients between March 2014 and March 2017.

A long-running MPTS fitness to practise hearing, which began in January 2020, has now finished hearing evidence from both the GMC and the defence in the case, with a decision expected in 2 or 3 weeks' time.

The MPTS panel will then consider whether Prof Stebbing's fitness to practise has been impaired and what sanction, if any, he will face.

Prof Justin Stebbing


Charges against him include inappropriately treating patients given their advanced cancer or poor prognosis, overstating life expectancy and the benefits of chemotherapy, and continuing to treat patients when it was futile.

Other charges relate to his failure to gain informed consent by not discussing the risks and benefits of treatment with patients and failing to maintain proper records.

Complainants in the case include Leaders in Oncology Care (LOC), a specialist cancer treatment centre, BUPA, and AXA insurers.

Prof Stebbing, who initially only admitted three charges relating to changes made to an MDT form and the submission of a BUPA application form, has since admitted 30 of the 36 charges against him.

He admits all charges relating to seven patients and the only clinical charges he denies concern a single patient - Patient B - who was given chemotherapy beyond six cycles when there was evidence of impaired renal function.

Prof Stebbing's QC Mary O'Rourke told the tribunal that Patient B, who later received immunotherapy, had lived for two-and-a-half years following treatment unlike the other 11 patients who all died within a month.

And the GMC's case, presented by Sharon Beattie QC, has centred on whether treatment was appropriate in the circumstances and if patients should have received end of life care instead.

Ms Beattie claimed that two of the defence's key witnesses - cancer experts Professor Karol Sikora and Dr Nick Plowman - lacked independence and impartiality when giving their evidence.

This led to the evidence of Dr Plowman, a senior oncologist at St Bartholomew's Hospital with a private practice on Harley Street, being disregarded by the defence.

A decision on the facts in the case will not be made before October 4.

Ian Leonard is a freelance journalist experienced in covering MPTS hearings.

Lead Image: MPTS
Image 1: Kerry Elsworth


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