July 5, 2022

Two California neurosurgeons banned over controversial brain treatment

Two leading California neurosurgeons have been banned from further research after they experimented on dying brain cancer patients without authorisation .

Two leading California neurosurgeons have been banned from further research after they experimented on dying brain cancer patients without authorisation .

In 2010 and 2011 Dr J. Paul Muizelaar, the head of neurological surgery at the University of California Davis, and his junior colleague, Dr Rudolph J. Schrot, introduced bacteria into the open head wounds of three patients. They wanted to see whether a response mounted by the body’s immune defences would also combat a malignant brain tumour. Unfortunately two of the patients developed sepsis and all three have since died.

On the day that that the third patient died, the University learned that the two doctors intended to test their theory on five more patients.

The doctors maintain that they did nothing wrong. They believed that they had obtained permission for their unusual procedure and that the patients had consented. “If I come down with a glioblastoma, I will demand that it be done on myself,” Muizelaar said.

“When we administered this treatment, I believed it was appropriate innovative treatment which carried the hope of battling this deadly disease,” Schrot told the Sacramento Bee. “I wished to do everything in my power to try to help these patients.”

Somehow the system for ethics checks by an institutional review board (IRB) broke down. “We believed that this was innovative treatment, not research, and that IRB approval was not needed,” said Schrot.

The scandal has put the University’s funding at risk.

Bioethicist Art Caplan, of New York University, was critical of the doctors. “If you’re dying, you’re kind of like reaching out to anything that anybody throws in front of you. That’s why so many people over the years are pursuing quack cures in Mexico and all kinds of questionable treatments. They’re not able to think straight because they’re at death’s door.”

Despite the controversy, Dr Muizelaar was awarded an endowed chair in neurosurgery by the University in April. ~ Nature News Blog, Jul 23; Sacramento Bee, Jul 22

Michael Cook
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