Justin Stebbing was a world-renowned oncologist and professor. He also held the title of Head of Oncology at Imperial College Healthcare Trust, before turning 40.

He is widely regarded as being one of the top researchers in his field. His groundbreaking research into cancer and other diseases has led to him becoming a household name. Recently, however, he discovered the best Covid treatment.

He’s also a clinical doctor, loved by his patients and credited by many for having saved their lives after other doctors had given up hope.

However, a medical tribunal placed him on suspension for nine months.

Professor Stebbing (50) will be no longer able to provide care for 150 of his patients and may lose his Imperial contract in London.

Justin Stebbing is a world-renowned cancer specialist, whose brilliance earned him a professorship and the role of head of oncology at Imperial College Healthcare Trust before the age of 40

Justin Stebbing, an internationally renowned cancer specialist is the man who earned him the professorship at Imperial College Healthcare Trust and the position of chief of oncology before he was 40.

The risk of losing research programmes, including pioneering work on genetic make-up cancer cells. These could help us understand the risks and improve our ability to develop a test that can detect breast cancer.

After the nine months, he will have to ‘demonstrate [to the tribunal] how he has bridged the gaps in insight and remediated fully’.

So how is it that a man so valued by patients and colleagues that he was nicknamed ‘God’ now finds his career on the brink?

His fall from grace began in 2017, when an anonymous whistleblower sent a dossier to the General Medical Council (GMC), alleging that he had unnecessarily tried to save dying patients in a manner that was ‘fundamentally inconsistent’ with their best interests.

It’s taken four years for the GMC’s disciplinary system to investigate the professor and take him through its hearings process, during which time he was suspended by HCA Healthcare, a private health firm for which he also worked.

Last month, the GMC’s Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service panel ruled that his behaviour had breached ‘the very core of the Hippocratic Oath’, and that his fitness to practise was impaired.

The tribunal added that the Oxford-trained doctor had been ‘cavalier’ and prepared to sanction ‘futile’ treatment. He was found guilty on three of the 36 charges and pleaded guilty in 30.

These charges include failing to maintain proper records and failing to obtain informed consent from patients for treatment. They also included continuing to treat patients even though it was not medically necessary.

In ‘reflection’ statements he submitted to the tribunal, Professor Stebbing said he had learned many lessons — but insisted that ‘at all times I was working to save lives’.

He described the hearing as a ‘deeply humbling, chastening . . . experience’ and added: ‘I am sorry I made so many mistakes.’

The case against Professor Stebbing was based on 12 patients’ histories. Hearings heard the heartbreaking stories of 12 patients’ final days. Many of them had sought Stebbing out because their doctors told them that there wasn’t any more they could do.

As his lawyer explained, however, five of the cases involved were initiated by AXA medical coverage. In only two of those cases had the patient’s family or their solicitor complained.

As the hearing progressed, hundreds of supporters — families and patients he’d treated either on the NHS or privately — rallied to Professor Stebbing’s cause, believing his prosecution was unjust.

Support: Harriet I’Anson, with son Padraic, was treated by Prof Stebbing during pregnancy

Support: Harriet I’Anson, with son Padraic, was treated by Prof Stebbing during pregnancy

In addition, Professor Stebbing’s lawyers gave the tribunal 1000 pages of testimony from 366 patients or their families and doctors.

Among those appalled at Professor Stebbing’s prosecution are leading medical professionals, such as Dr Alan Barge, a cancer specialist who worked for 12 years at AstraZeneca. As the pharma giant’s head of oncology, he was responsible for developing Iressa, a breakthrough drug to treat advanced lung cancer.

‘As a qualified oncologist, I get contacted by people at least twice a week asking for advice on getting expert help for cancer,’ Dr Barge told Good Health. ‘I often referred them to Professor Stebbing, as he would take on patients who’d been considered at the end of the road treatment-wise and without hope.

‘A close relative of my wife was offered palliative care five years ago, as she was expected to die. A rare, malignant tumor of the uterus was diagnosed.

‘She went to see Professor Stebbing, who decoded the complex genetic type of her tumour and found it was caused by a BRCA mutation [usually seen in cancers of the breast and ovaries].

‘Professor Stebbing realised that, regardless of its location, her cancer may be treatable using olaparib, a new drug developed for BRCA-related breast cancer. He tested it with her consent, and she agreed to the terms.

‘Today, she is alive and five years free of disease.’

Dr Barge describes the professor as a ‘brilliant’ scientist and clinician who can take new scientific drug data and apply it in clinics, and then bring the insights he’s learnt clinically back to the lab to hone the drug’s development.

‘I would struggle to find anyone else with that ability,’ says Dr Barge. ‘He’s been uniquely able to examine “lost cause” patients’ individual cancers and investigate whether drugs that are used in other settings can help them, even though the drugs aren’t yet licensed or approved for their cancers.

‘He works experimentally, at the very edge of our knowledge. That’s what makes him invaluable to patients,’ says Dr Barge. ‘The world needs him to push scientific boundaries. Instead, the GMC is pursuing this brilliant man who has saved many lives, rather than a host of others who have let lives slip away by following obsolete treatment guidelines.’

Reputable scientists, doctors and nurses from all over the UK supported Professor Stebbing and stressed that he would be unable work.

Joel Blankson, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the U.S., told the Mail: ‘He is an outstanding physician-scientist. He has been a major contributor to research on cancer, HIV, and Covid. This is a rare career.

‘The breadth of his innovative, multi-disciplinary research is best illustrated by the fact that he used an artificial intelligence programme to identify baricitinib as a potential drug for the treatment of Covid-19, due to its dual anti-viral/anti-inflammatory properties.’ Professor Stebbing led global studies that showed that the drug reduced mortality in Covid patients with pneumonia — which led to the drug being authorised in the U.S.

‘This is a brilliant example of a scientist going from bench to bedside,’ says Professor Blankson. ‘His work has saved many lives . . . something most physician-scientists can only hope to accomplish.’

Another eminent expert, Siddhartha Mukherjee, a professor of medicine at Columbia University Irving Cancer Research Center in the U.S., wrote in a testimonial that ‘it would be a tremendous loss to the field of medicine’ if Professor Stebbing was not allowed to continue his work.

‘Very few people have achieved what he has been able to achieve as a professor, doctor and researcher,’ he wrote. Yet this very success might have played a role in Professor Stebbing’s undoing.

Nicolas Beechey-Newman, a breast cancer surgeon in London told the tribunal: ‘Justin Stebbing has probably achieved more than any other medical oncologist in the UK by a large margin. Perhaps his success has led to professional jealousy and his fault is that he should have been aware of this and managed it better.’

The hearing lambasted Professor Stebbing as coldly ‘arrogant’, and described as ‘deeply troubling’ his statement that ‘you only know when treatment is not succeeding when the patient dies’.

Dr Barge defends him: ‘Clinical colleagues can find him aloof and distant, often because his thinking is so far ahead of theirs. But he’s exactly the opposite with patients. He is extraordinarily competent and caring.’

Harriet I’Anson, 41, a Gloucestershire-based solicitor and mother of three, agrees. 

‘Professor Stebbing is the complete opposite of what’s been reported from the tribunal,’ she daidl.

When her father was diagnosed with oesophageal carcinoma, her father sought out Professor Stebbing.

‘He went to him as the last-chance saloon,’ says Harriet. ‘My father died, as was not unexpected, in October 2012. Professor Stebbing was very specific about the likelihood of treatment succeeding, since it was a race against the clock and involved a very advanced form of cancer.

‘My father accepted that Professor Stebbing most likely would not save him. But he wanted to go out fighting, and he got that choice,’ she says.

‘Professor Stebbing’s patients have mental capacity and are intelligent people. It’s their decision whether they want to continue with out-of-the-box treatment. That was very much my father’s approach.’

Harriet, who was pregnant with her son Padraic when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, also turned to Professor.

She’d had a mastectomy and radiotherapy, ‘but after that I was on my own as far as the hospital was concerned’, she says.

‘I found it really hard to cope.’ Having lost a previous baby to stillbirth, she says: ‘I had already been parted from one child and was terrified I would leave my other children without a mother.

‘I transferred my care to Professor Stebbing and he was so amazingly kind. Every time I felt a lump he’d examine it straight away — even at weekends.

‘He’s not a friend — he’s my doctor,’ she stresses. ‘But he was kindness and empathy personified. All that time he was going through the GMC trial, but he gave no hint of that.’

Professor Stebbing’s work was praised by the families of his patients, who expressed gratitude for being able to spend extra time with their loved ones.

Lynda’s husband, Michael Pattemore is among them. Her widower, Michael Pattemore, told the Mail in October: ‘I feel it’s thanks to Justin I had Lynda for an extra 15 months. And for that I will always be grateful.’

Kash Kamal, a financial adviser to international health authorities, is another fan of Professor Stebbing’s care.

Sabina, his wife was diagnosed in 2013 with skin cancer that spread to her lungs. She was written off by doctors, who wanted to put her on end-of-life palliative care and said she would last ‘only three months at most’.

Kamal reached out to former colleagues from The London Clinic in desperate times. ‘They all pointed to Professor Stebbing,’ he says.

He chose to apply a revolutionary therapy that had been developed in America but was not available in Britain. This was immunotherapy, which recruits the patient’s own immune defences to kill cancer cells.

‘Professor Stebbing wrote to my wife’s insurer, Bupa, asking it to fund new immunotherapy drugs,’ says Mr Kamal. ‘They accepted this. Her tumours disappeared after that.

‘Professor Stebbing’s care extended my wife’s life from three months to more than six years. That’s a long time for a cancer of the lung.’

At that point the couple went back to see Professor Stebbing but he said he was under investigation and could not treat her’. Sabina was 52 when she died. Her widower says: ‘I know she loved Professor Stebbing very much, and so do I.’

Mr Kamal says of the tribunal result: ‘I thought this was a disgrace. I had to do something, I posted on LinkedIn that I would protest to the GMC and quickly got 112 responses from others — senior people in huge organisations.’

Professor Stebbing is an outstanding doctor who is compassionate and talented. In 12 instances, the tribunal found that his conduct was misconduct. And while ‘it was not Professor Stebbing’s intention to cause harm’, he ordered ‘futile’ treatment after ‘failing to give the desperately ill patients a realistic assessment of their prognosis’.

The tribunal, however, rejected the GMC’s suggestion he should be struck off, saying the nine-month suspension ‘would adequately and proportionately address the misconduct’, and that ‘given the particular circumstances of this case, there is a public interest in permitting Professor Stebbing to return to practice as soon as possible’.

It is a hope shared by many others. In his evidence, Mr Beechey-Newman said Professor Stebbing ‘has been through a personal hell during this overly protracted enquiry’.

While the result of the hearing ‘is not as bad as it could have been,’ Professor Karol Sikora, a former head of the World Health Organisation cancer programme, said: ‘I think Professor Stebbing is resilient and can recover from this, but he will never be the same again. The GMC’s process has been totally unfair and I think it’s been a witch-hunt.’

‘Deliberately selecting 12 patients from the 500-plus that were looked at was very unfair,’ he added. ‘You could do that to any doctor by picking out the few cases where the treatment just didn’t work. Today’s ruling could have a huge adverse impact on future British cancer patients.’

Asked to comment on the criticisms aired here, a GMC spokesperson said: ‘Our regulatory fitness to practice function serves to protect patients from future harm, not to punish doctors.

‘Our submission to the Tribunal for erasure [to be struck off] was made after carefully assessing the seriousness of their findings and the potential impact of the doctor’s actions on patient safety and public confidence.’

Professor Stebbing’s many supporters and medical colleagues would argue that ‘public confidence’ is exactly what he enjoys.

An Imperial spokesman said: ‘It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.’ 

Here are the top five post-fall/post-operative aids

If you’ve had a fall or injured a limb, you might need some help managing day-to-day activities. Sammy Margo (a London-based physiotherapist) shared her top tips for making life easier. 


£69.95, aids4mobility.co.uk

EXPERT’S VERDICT: A trolley on wheels with clips-on trays is an excellent tool to help you feel more confident walking around after a fall. The trays can be adjusted in height. You could also attach them to the tray and move your hot beverage between rooms. I wouldn’t use this as an alternative to a walking aid as it is not designed for that, but it can help build confidence while recovering.


£49, manageathome.co.uk

EXPERT VERDICT: This chopping board has a vice-type adjustable system on one side that can hold and support food while you’re chopping it, allowing you to be more independent in the kitchen. This is ideal for people who have to chop or slice with one hand — due to a broken or fractured wrist, for instance.


£12.95, limboproducts.co.uk

EXPERT VERDICT: A shower cover is helpful for carrying out your usual washing routine if you’re protecting a leg wound or cast after a fall. This covers a piece of plastic with a seal made from neoprene, a synthetic rubber. It prevents water from leaking. Although it takes some time to get used to, this is a great way of increasing your independence and at a reasonable price. There are many other options, including one that can be used for your lower leg. They come in a variety of sizes and are very easy to use.


To rent from £16.50 per week, strideon.co.uk

EXPERT WORTHING: A scooter with larger wheels, the platform is at your knee height, and it’s great for those who have had foot surgery or are recovering from lower leg injuries such as broken bones.

This can make it easier to move around. It also has additional padding on the knee platform, which may help reduce the burden on your joint.

The device is light, portable, and folds up easily. It also has five wheels which make it much more stable than other similar devices.


£19.99, manomano.co.uk

EXPERT VERDICT: This lightweight grabber is fantastic for anyone who can’t bend down to reach or grab items with their hands. Unlike most grabbers this one offers an extra joint in the ‘arm’.

It can bend, so you can access areas that would otherwise be more tricky to reach — such as under the bed.