Well here’s an interesting way to treat end stage cancer patients:
Things have to be bad if you are prepared to allow someone to put feces in your brain. This was the case for three brain cancer patients at the University of California-Davis Medical Center, who consented to the highly experimental procedure. But the doctors who performed the implants were fined by the state’s Department of Public Health anyway.
The three patients all had end stage glioblastoma multiforme, which is a fast growing type of brain tumor. They had not responded to conventional treatments, including removal of the tumors, so doctors suggested the new, untested treatment, which involved placing bacteria from the bowels in the patients’ brains. The idea was to create infections that would kill the remaining tumor cells.
Sadly, according to the state’s report, the fecal bacteria created infections, but not with the intended results. The patients went into seizures and developed symptoms of septic infection, or bacteria in the blood. The first patient died soon after the treatment and experienced several other bacterial infections and never regained breathing or feeding functions.
The third patient also died after displaying severe symptoms of blood infection.
The state report said although the patients we informed that the fecal bacteria treatments were experimental and untested on humans, doctors had no plan for what to do if the experiments went wrong. They treated some of the resulting infections with antibiotics, but not others and could not explain the reasons for that inconsistency to investigators.
In interviews with the state investigators, hospital officials acknowledged that introducing fecal bacteria into the brain was “not a standard treatment for brain tumors.” In fact, they said this form of therapy “had not been proven to be effective” and contained a “high risk for harm” with “no clear benefit” defined for the patients.
The State review of the Medical Center and the doctors is here.
The doctors here got the proper consent so I don’t know if liability would be here since the patients consented. The doctors though did an end around of the Medical center’s IRB (Institutional Review Board) process and there’s the rub. There’s nothing generally wrong with controversial and experimental treatments of patients who are dying and are consenting. IRB is a ginormous pain in the butt and it can, as all administrative procedures, hinder flexibility. BUT, not going to IRB raises huge red flags because IRB at least allows some peer review of procedures and acts as a check and balance on doctors. The IRB process could no doubt be improved at any institution I wager, but avoiding the process altogether is not the right and ethical way to go about making such changes.