Court opens case of “miracle” doctor

A Prague court on Friday opened the case of Zbynek Veselsky – a doctor who made a fine business out of curing cancer with costly injections. His patients never had cancer and the injections he gave them were vitamin B. The case has evoked public outrage and raised many questions relating to medical ethics and the role of the Czech Doctors’ Chamber.

In 2005 Jindřich Popelář was told he had cancer. His doctor advised him against surgery, saying the tumor was too widespread, but he offered him a cancer cure which had not previously been tested in the Czech Republic. Expensive, but it could save his life. Popelář gratefully agreed and paid 30 thousand crowns for the special injections. Two months later his doctor pronounced him cured. It was not until two years later that another specialist told him that he had never had cancer and had fallen prey to a fraudster. By that time the miracle doctor had duped two other patients in much the same way.

Twenty years after the fall of communism the country’s health service is on a high level and patients have more rights – among them the right to choose their physician, to see their medical records and get a second opinion. Doctors like Zbynek Veselský are not common – but they do crop up. Luboš Olejář, head of the Association of Patients says it is up to the Czech Doctors Chamber to prevent such incidents.

“This man deserves exemplary punishment. All the more so that this is not his first transgression. He was sacked from his former work place for replacing the wrong kidney in transplant surgery. Doctors like him really should be blacklisted but because of the medical brain-drain hospitals are sometimes short on staff and take on doctors whose record is not clean. It is the task of the Doctors Chamber to point out such things and I think it has failed in doing its duty.”

Luboš Olejár
Coincidentally, just a few days ago Czech Television carried an investigative report in which it secretly filmed another doctor admitting that she prescribed a certain medicine because she was paid a bonus by the respective pharmaceutical company for every patient who took the drug. All rather unnerving news for patients. One thing that they can do to avoid doctors such as these is check them out on the internet where patients themselves give references about their doctor. Luboš Olejár of the Association of Patients says that the association is considering some form of action itself.

“I think the Internet is proving a valuable source of information for patients. And we ourselves may put up a blacklist list of problem-doctors where this information can be found in one place. In this case I mean doctors who have seriously erred in the past and in what way, so that patients know who they are dealing with. It should be up to the Doctors Chamber to do this but, as I said, it seems to be generally lacking in this respect.”

Patients who have a complaint to make or have doubts regarding their doctor’s qualifications can complain to the Doctors Chamber, the Health Ministry or their Health Insurance Company, but more than anything else their need to use their own judgment and obtain as much information as they can about the respective GP, specialist and clinic where they are getting treatment.