Dr. Gonzalez Clarifies Legal Issues

Your Dec. 15, 2000 issue carried an extended article related to my work, my research and my apparent legal difficulties. Several paragraphs relate to the two lawsuits brought against me; they contain significant misinformation both directly and by omission.

The plaintiff in the first suit … had disease that by everyone's standard had a poor prognosis. There is no standard chemotherapy effective for her type of endometrial cancer; the (conventional) therapy offered her … was not "standard" treatment because no standard treatment has ever been found effective. At that time, there was only one controlled trial of radiation in uterine cancer, and that showed an increased death rate for patients with [my patient's] type of cancer.

The tumors pulled out of the patient's spine after nine months on my therapy were by the pathology review essentially dead. Though told she had 12–24 months to live in 1992 by doctors at Mount Sinai, she is still alive over nine years since she began treatment with me. She did go blind, but long after she stopped my therapy and deciding to follow recommendations of the Mount Sinai doctors.

How did I lose the case? At the time in New York State, by legal definition, any physician departing from standard medicine was "negligent," and could be held liable for any damage that occurred to a patient, even if other doctors, as in this case, caused the damage. I was found responsible for her blindness, something that did not even occur under my care. Until recent changes in state law, doctors practicing alternative methods had little defense.

The second case involved stage IVb Hodgkin's disease, the worst and most aggressive form. This patient had a relapse in her lung after her first course of aggressive chemotherapy and a stay at the Nieper Clinic in Germany. She underwent a resection of the lung tumor, but then had a second recurrence, which was treated with very aggressive experimental "salvage" chemotherapy. She went into remission briefly, then had a third recurrence. Experimental bone marrow transplant (BMT) was offered, but refused repeatedly by the patient long before she came under my care. She went to the Gerson clinic in Mexico, had continuing spread of disease, and eventually came under my care.

She lasted close to three years with me, but did eventually die, still under my care. The husband brought suit claiming I talked her out of a BMT which would have "cured" her, despite the fact that she had repeatedly refused BMT long before she came into my office, and to this day, there are no trials in this type of aggressive cancer showing any benefit of BMT over conventional chemotherapy, which she had already twice failed. In a jury trial, we won on six of the eight issues; the remaining two are on appeal.

The average oncologist is sued 4.5 times in his or her career, and this never makes the news. I believe these cases show the enormous bias against alternative medicine in the courts.

Nicholas J. Gonzalez, MD
New York, NY

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