Blood cancers

Seven year ban for stem cell “quack” doctor after haemorrhage death

Thursday, 7 Nov 2019

A NSW doctor who provided unproven stem cell therapy has been de-registered for seven years after one of his patient died of uncontrolled blood loss.

Dr Ralph Bright has received a seven year suspension of his medical registration from the Civil and Administrative Tribunal of NSW, which found him guilty of professional misconduct for offering “quack medicine” stem cell treatments and peptide preparations for patients with OA, vascular dementia and neurological conditions.

In a highly critical verdict on his practice at Macquarie Stem Cells, the tribunal concluded that Dr Bright had shown a “reckless disregard for patient safety”, and said the ban meant it was unlikely that he would again be eligible for registration, given his age.

Dr Bright’s controversial Liverpool-based private clinic has been promoting stem cell treatments for conditions  such as osteoarthritis, joint degeneration in athletes and multiple sclerosis at costs reported to be $9000 or more.

The tribunal upheld five complaints brought by the Health Care Complaints Commission, including one based on the death of a 75-year old woman on whom Dr Bright performed a liposuction stem cell procedure in 2013.

A coronial inquest found that the patient died due to hypovolaemic shock following uncontrolled blood loss. In his report, the coroner found a “cluster of errors”  including failure to stop the aspirin before surgery and failure to recognise the patient’s slow recovery and low blood pressure as signs of significant blood loss.

A report by expert witness Professor Colin Masters stated that it was “completely inappropriate and unethical” of Dr Bright to administer autologous adipose tissue-derived stem cells to a frail elderly patient when there was no evidence of scientific evidence of likely benefit, and a high risk of an adverse outcome.

The coroner said that in the commercial clinic setting the use of an experimental procedure was unreasonable.

“While all medical and surgical procedures necessarily start off experimentally, there is a world of difference between rigorously and ethically conducted clinical trials that are reviewed at every stage by qualified peers and this procedure, which, in relation to the treatment of dementia at least, has some of the troubling hallmarks of ‘quack’ medicine; desperate patients, pseudo-science and large amount of money being charged for unproven therapies.”

The tribunal also heard of several other cases where Dr Bright inappropriately prescribed unproven peptide substances for three patients, claiming they would help muscle regeneration.

Dr Bright denied any misconduct or unprofessional behaviour and did not attend the tribunal to address the complaints. The tribunal said it agreed with the coroner’s ruling that the treatments were effectively “quack medicine”, and concluded that Dr Bright’s  conduct fell well below any standard of care expected of a medical practitioner.

It ordered his medical registration be cancelled for seven years, noting that he had already surrendered his registration in August 2019.

In 2015 the TGA started a review of autologous stem cell treatments which led in 2019 to tighter regulation of their use and advertising to the public.

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