Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Alternative medicine doctor has license suspended

Article published Apr 15, 2005

Alternative medicine doctor has license suspended

The Associated Press

A doctor at the center of a steroid investigation involving Carolina Panthers players was suspended by the state medical board, which called the practitioner a "serious threat" to public health.

The South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners said Dr. James Shortt prescribed the steroid testosterone to four unidentified male patients "in doses and frequencies that were extremely unlikely to have been prescribed with any legitimate medical justification."

An accompanying document from a state Labor Licensing Department investigator said the dosage and refill levels for the testosterone "provide a strong indication" that they were used for medically unnecessary purposes such as increasing muscle mass.

A medical board spokesman declined to say whether any of the four males cited in the suspension order were Panthers players.

The order, announced Thursday after a secret vote a day earlier, also cited the 2004 deaths of two patients whose families have filed malpractice lawsuits.

Katherine Bibeau, who had multiple sclerosis, died three days after receiving intravenous hydrogen peroxide. Michael Bate, who died of prostate cancer, also received the peroxide injections and was allegedly told by Shortt how to get and take an illegal cancer drug.

Bate's doctor determined his cause of death was cancer. But Richland County Coroner Gary Watts ruled Bibeau's death a homicide. No charges have been filed in the case. The State Law Enforcement Division and federal Drug Enforcement Administration are investigating.

"There is no doubt in my mind Katherine Bibeau died as a result of something Dr. Shortt did," Watts said Friday.

Shortt, a traditionally trained M.D. who turned to alternative medicine, has been under investigation for nearly a year by state and federal authorities probing illegal steroid prescriptions.

Shortt denied any wrongdoing. "I'm annoyed," he told The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer for Friday editions. "I haven't done anything wrong, I haven't done anything different, I haven't done anything since all this foolishness started a year ago."

CBS News reported last month that three Carolina Panthers players filled prescriptions from Shortt for banned steroids less than two weeks before the team played in the 2004 Super Bowl.

The suspension order said Shortt's actions, including the intravenous hydrogen peroxide infusions, "render him unfit to practice medicine and constitute a serious threat to the public health, safety or welfare."

"Suspension of a license is supposed to be to protect the public. Ain't nobody dead, except for one person, and I still can't figure that one out."

"And the second one," referring to Bate, a cancer patient, "was terminal the day that person walked into some other doctor's office six months before they saw me."

Katherine Bibeau's widower, David Bibeau, said the suspension gave him a sense of vindication.

"It's taken too long, but I am relieved that finally the public is being protected," he said.

Richard Gergel, the attorney representing Bibeau and Bate, praised the action of the board.

"I think it was a long overdue step," Gergel said Friday. "But in the end, they got to the right place."

Gergel said the case should be an example to the state medical board that physician complaints need to be made public. "This culture of secrecy of the medical board is not in the best interest of the public."

It's important not to trample on the due process rights of physicians, said South Carolina Medical Association chief executive Todd Atwater. But in this case, the association supports the board's decision to pull Shortt's license, he said.

"If physicians have done wrong, patients need to know," Atwater said, noting Shortt is not a member of the South Carolina Medical Association.

Shortt has not decided whether to contest the suspension, his lawyer Ward Bradley said.

Meanwhile, the board will continue its investigation and decide whether to permanently revoke his license, medical board spokesman Jim Knight said.

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