A leading cancer doctor nicknamed ‘God’ for his life-saving treatments has said he is humbled and ashamed as he faces ruin over his ‘cavalier’ attitude towards dying patients.
Although Professor Justin Stebbing may now be dismissed, many people continue to support him. They credit him for saving lives and prolonging the lives of their loved ones.
‘Team Stebbing’ has won the support of one of Britain’s most eminent oncologists, who warned that a misconduct finding against the 50-year-old earlier this month would deter fellow cancer specialists from helping patients who were ‘desperate to live’.
Stebbing, who is an oncology professor at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, earned millions from his private practice in Harley Street, treating stars including ‘Oxo Mum’ actress Lynda Bellingham and Sir Michael Parkinson.
Although Professor Justin Stebbing may now be exonerated, many people still credit him for saving lives or prolonging the lives of their loved ones.
However, in 2017, an anonymous whistleblower provided a detailed dossier of his work to General Medical Council.
A disciplinary hearing heard harrowing detail of the final days of 12 of Stebbing’s patients – many of whom had come to him after other oncologists said nothing more could be done.
Last month, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service panel concluded his behaviour had breached ‘the very core of the Hippocratic Oath’.
Rosa Burdsall, whose husband Brian received the news that he had Stage 4 Cancer in 2012, is one of his supporters. Thanks to the pioneering regime of chemotherapy that Stebbing put him on, Mr Burdsall – the former managing director of Midland Mainline railway – was able to enjoy another five years of life
It said the Oxford-trained doctor was prepared to sanction ‘futile’ treatment in a manner that was ‘fundamentally inconsistent with the best interests of patients’.
Tribunal chairman Hassan Khan accused him of responding to legitimate concerns about patients’ treatment in a ‘dismissive, confrontational, and aggressive manner’.
Now details of grovelling ‘reflection’ statements from Stebbing as he sought to avoid the finding of misconduct have been released. In one, he said he had learnt many lessons – but insisted that ‘at all times I was working to save lives’.
In a second statement written after the panel found 33 out of 36 counts had been proved, he described the disciplinary hearing as a ‘deeply humbling, chastening… experience’.
He added: ‘I am sorry I made so many mistakes.’ Saying he was ‘deeply ashamed’ of his failings, he pledged to act in a more cautious manner if allowed to continue his medical career.
Stebbing lawyers received over 1000 pages of testimonials by 366 families members. Rosa Burdsall, whose husband Brian received news that he had Stage 4 Cancer in 2012, is one of the supporters.
Thanks to the pioneering regime of chemotherapy that Stebbing put him on, Mr Burdsall – the former managing director of Midland Mainline railway – was able to enjoy another five years of life.
His 72-year-old widow, from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, said: ‘Brian was able to spend time with his grandchildren, which was wonderful, and we also got to enjoy some wonderful family holidays.’
She told the Daily Mail it would be ‘a tragedy’ if patients were denied the chance to be treated by Stebbing.
Panel members took note of the testimonials. But it concluded the public would be ‘extremely concerned’ at an oncologist adopting a ‘cavalier’ approach to consent, treatment and prognosis who had treated patients ‘in the face of futility… potentially depriving patients of a dignified death’.
Karol Sikora an oncologist warned Stebbing patients that it would cause them harm. ‘What worries me is oncologists will pull back on potentially life-saving treatments,’ said Professor Sikora, a former head of the World Health Organisation’s cancer programme.
‘They’ll say “What’s the point of trying something new if it’s going to get me in trouble?” In my view it’s tall poppy syndrome – he’s annoyed a lot of people.’
The panel will meet next month to decide what sanction – from a warning to being struck off – to impose. Stebbing denied any accusations of being financially motivated.