The Texas Medical Board's legal staff on Wednesday issued a proposed order that would place controversial cancer doctor Stanislaw Burzynski on probation and force him to pay $360,000 in penalties and more than $20,000 in restitution for violating standards of care in his treatment of patients between 2009 and 2013.
The proposed order, which will be voted on March 3, claims that Burzynski aided and abetted the unlicensed practice of medicine; failed to obtain informed consent; and failed to maintain adequate patient records. It also alleges that Burzynski also failed to disclose his ownership interest in the pharmacy located inside his clinic's building.
But the proposal also notes that there was "insufficient evidence that any of [Burzynski's] patients suffered actual harm to their health," and that, "for almost 40 years, [Burzynski] has devoted himself to treating terminally ill cancer" with some unconventional methods that "have become more accepted and mainstream." (Unfortunately, the proposal doesn't state what those methods are.)
Under the terms of the probation, Burzynski would have to complete 44 hours of continuing medical education, and pass the board's "medical jurisprudence exam." (The probation is set to run for "16 consecutive monitoring cycles," which, in normal-people-language, would be roughly four years, according to board spokesperson Jarrett Schneider.)
If the proposal passes, Burzynski still has the right to appeal, Schneider said.
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The proposal is a bit of a mixed blessing for Bob Blaskiewicz, a patient advocate and outspoken critic of Burzynski. He's the spokesman for the Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients and runs The OTHER Burzynski Patient Group site, a rebuttal to the pro-Burzynski (and anti-evidence-based-medicine) patient site.
In an emailed statement to the Houston Press, Blaskiewicz wrote that, if the proposal is accepted, his group would be:
"disappointed that Burzynski will still be allowed to practice his peculiar form of medicine, but the ruling is more than a mere slap on the wrist. I think that the Board realizes that if after 40 years of treating patients a physician has not grasped the basics of medical ethics, that it is not in the public interest to leave the doctor unmonitored, and that seems to be what we have here.
Hopefully, Burzynski's babysitter will be able to impose minimal quality and ethical controls to protect the desperate patients who show up at Burzynski's door, cash in hand, every week. It's not ideal, but it's an improvement. And if nothing else, that long list of violations of patient trust in the order takes the wind out of the argument that Burzynski has been treated unfairly."
The board, which also attempted to revoke Burzynksi's license in 1994, filed this latest complaint in 2014, but administrative judges in October 2016 issued a surprisingly sympathetic set of proposed findings, calling Burzynski "a dedicated and innovative physician who wants to continue treating advanced cancer patients."