A Barton County lawsuit says Hutchinson Clinic oncologist Fadi Estephan gave chemotherapy to a patient who didn’t have cancer.
Karen Davis, a homemaker in Great Bend, was referred to Estephan from her primary care physician with abnormal protein levels in December 2011, according to the lawsuit.
After testing, Estephan diagnosed her with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that forms in the plasma of white blood cells and accumulates in bone marrow.
Davis underwent chemotherapy, which she says was unnecessary after having additional testing at the Mayo Clinic, according to the lawsuit.
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“I believe we did the right thing,” Estephan said when asked about the case.
He refused an interview but issued a statement through his attorney: “Dr. Estephan has dedicated his professional life to the study, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Dr. Estephan has served the cancer patients of Hutchinson and surrounding communities for 10 years. He is known to have championed an evidence based progressive practice of oncology, introducing guidelines and parameters when caring for patients in Reno County and the surrounding area including Barton County.
“The Davis case is being actively defended. Dr. Estephan’s care and treatment met and, in fact, exceeded the applicable standard of care. This was confirmed by a second opinion obtained during the care of Ms. Davis prior to any suggestion of potential litigation. While it is unfortunate that Ms. Davis has elected to file a lawsuit, Dr. Estephan looks forward to defending his care and his reputation in that forum.”
Estephan’s attorney did not respond to further questions, including who gave the second opinion in Davis’ case.
Davis also refused an interview through her attorney but issued a statement: “In general, our policy is not to comment on pending cases in litigation. However we believe the facts and allegations, as pled, provide ample support for the filing of this lawsuit by Ms. Davis, and we look forward to receiving a favorable decision from the Court.”
Davis began chemotherapy in January 2012, which required a portacath surgically placed for intravenous chemotherapy, according to the suit.
The port caused an infection and hospitalization, and Davis had other side effects from the chemotherapy, including appetite changes, depression, fatigue, hair loss, memory changes, pain and weight loss, the lawsuit says.
In June 2012, Davis says she questioned Estephan about the necessity of chemotherapy and whether it was beneficial. Against his advice, she stopped the treatments with the “intent to seek additional treatment for her cancer, or, if necessary, live her remaining days at home with her family.”
Around that time, Davis’ primary care physician questioned whether she also had parathyroidism in addition to multiple myeloma, the lawsuit says. Davis was then referred to the Mayo Clinic, which, after tests, told her she didn’t have cancer and didn’t meet clinical criteria for multiple myeloma at the time of diagnosis.
Mayo Clinic physicians advised her “not to restart chemotherapy as no data existed to support any benefit from such a form of treatment” and to immediately remove her port, according to the suit. Mayo Clinic physicians also said that the elevated protein levels in the beginning were likely from the parathyroidism.
A trial date has not been set.
Estephan, who is the now the sole oncologist at the clinic, previously worked with oncologist Mark Fesen.
In August, The Eagle wrote about internal audits at the Hutchinson Clinic in 2010 and 2011 that said Fesen had inappropriately treated patients, including some who didn’t have cancer.
Audits also were done on Estephan’s practice at the time and revealed no compliance issues.
Fesen left the Hutchinson Clinic in 2011.
In the past several months, the Hutchinson Clinic’s oncology department staff has gone from six members to three, according to its website. Hutchinson Clinic officials would not comment on the Estephan lawsuit or the recent departures.
In addition to Estephan, the department now has one physician assistant and one advanced practice registered nurse.