04/11/2013 09:05 EDT | Updated 06/11/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C. Cancer Specialist Provided 'Unacceptable' Care

B.C. Cancer Agency
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.

'Ultimate humanitarian'

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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