An investigation of a former Prince George cancer specialist has found several cases of unacceptable and unapproved care, although he was well-respected in the northern B.C. community.
A B.C. Cancer Agency review of all 540 of Dr. Suresh Katakkar's cases found that 54 patients — 10 ten percent — received non-standard and unacceptable care.
"Unacceptable would be not up the standard of care anywhere in the world. So, either shortened courses of chemotherapy [or] chemotherapy that isn't proven, that kind of thing," said Dr. Marianne Taylor, who conducted the Cancer Agency’s review.
In eight cases, the agency found that Katakkar's decisions led to severe, preventable patient harm. In four cases, the review found the prescribed treatment may have contributed to the patients' premature death.
However, Katakkar's colleagues and patients defended the oncologist when he was initially suspended from practicing in B.C. in May 2012
Dr. Bert Kelly, executive director of the Northern Medical Society, called him “an ultimate humanitarian” who “put patient care first and foremost.”
Former Conservative MP Jay Hill also defended Katakkar, who treated his daughter Holly for stomach cancer using a form of therapy not approved by the B.C. Cancer Agency.
"They felt that Holly should just give up and be on palliative care until she passed away," he said last summer, calling the doctor's suspension "a huge disservice to other cancer patients".
Katakkar began working at the new BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North in January 2011, but resigned last June after he was suspended and banned from practising in B.C.
Since the review, a new vice-president of medical affairs has been created at the Cancer Agency to oversee doctors’ performance.
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Before Your Appointment
Gathering your health information and getting organized before your appointment are the key steps to ensuring a productive meeting with your doctor. This is especially important if you're seeing multiple doctors or are meeting with a new physician for the first time.
Get Your Test Results
Make sure the doctor you're seeing has copies of your latest X-ray, MRI or any other test or lab results, including reports from other doctors that you've seen. In most cases, you'll need to do the legwork yourself, which may only require a phone call to your previous doctor's administrative staff, asking for it to be sent, or you may need to go pick it up and bring it to the new office yourself.
List Your Medications
Make a list of all the medications you're taking (prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements) along with the dosages, and take it with you to your appointment. Or, just gather up all your pill bottles in a bag and bring them with you.
Gather Your Health History
Your doctor also needs to know about any previous hospitalizations, as well as any current or past medical problems, even if they are not the reason you are going to the doctor this time. Genetics matter too, so having your family's health history can be helpful. The U.S. Surgeon General offers a free web-based tool called <a href="http://familyhistory.hhs.gov" target="_hplink">"My Family Health Portrait"</a> that can help you put one together.
Prepare A List Of Questions
Make a written list of the top three or four issues you want to discuss with your doctor. Since most appointments last between 10 and 15 minutes, this can help you stay on track and ensure you address your most pressing concerns first. If you're in for a diagnostic visit, you should prepare a detailed description of your symptoms.
During Your Appointment
The best advice when you meet with your doctor is to speak up. Don't wait to be asked. Be direct, honest and as specific as possible when recounting your symptoms or expressing your concerns. Many patients are reluctant or embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, which makes the doctor's job a lot harder to do. It's also a good idea to bring along a family member or friend to your appointment. They can help you ask questions, listen to what the doctor is telling you and give you support.