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Indian Oncologist Barred from Practicing in the UK After Cancer Patient’s Death in Mumbai Hospital

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An Indian doctor has been barred from practicing in the UK after the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) concluded that the doctor prescribed a high dose of chemotherapy that caused the death of a cancer patient in Mumbai four years ago.

According to British Medical Journal, Dr. Pantula Sastry had done a stem-cell transplant on a patient named Sushma Agarwal, along with high-dose of chemotherapy despite knowing that she wasn’t capable for these procedures due to various factors.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, Agarwal, 55, was suffering from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and came to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital (KDAH) in Mumbai for treatment. At first Dr. Sastry reportedly performed an autogenous bone-marrow transplant on her. The transplant is ideally done to extract stem cells from the body to check for a cell marker CD34 to see if the count of CD34 is adequate. Upon finding the adequate number count of CD34, the doctor decides for chemotherapy to destroy the cancer cells.

As per the British tribunal report, chemotherapy with BEAM and autologous cell transplantation was inappropriate for Agarwal as she failed to mobilize an adequate number of CD34 positive cells and not knowing whether or not the patient had failed to mobilize an adequate number of CD34 positive cells, Dr. Sastry proceeded to give her high dose of chemotherapy with BEAM and autologous cell transplantation which was inappropriate as at least 2 x 106 CD34 positive cells/kg had not been collected.

The victim’s son, Avtansh had complained about the doctor to Maharashtra Medical Council who apparently did not take any action against the doctor who had by this time moved to the UK and started practicing there.

Avtansh reported this issue to the British doctor’s tribunal, who after investigations said that the doctor proceeded with the high dose chemotherapy despite being completely aware that the CD34 count was inadequate. The doctor’s choice turned Agarwal’s situation ‘with no realistic chances of survival,’ the tribunal cited.

“I knew there would be some provision by the GMC to consider the case,” said Avtansh. UK medical law allows overseas cases to consider a doctor’s “fitness to practice.” After the initial hearing, GMC proceeded further with the case.
In its final hearing, the tribunal concluded that Sastry went ahead with the procedure knowing fully well that there weren’t adequate CD34 cells to recommend high dose chemotherapy with BEAM asserting his fitness to practice is impaired by reason of his misconduct.

The doctor has appealed against this decision and is awaiting hearing.