Suit Charges That James Shortt, M.D.
Hastened Cancer Patient's Death
James M. Shortt, M.D., who practiced "longevity medicine" in Greenville, South Carolina, is being sued by the wife of Michael Bate, who died in March 2004 after Shortt administered nonstandard treatments for advanced prostate cancer. The lawsuit alleges:
- Shortt improperly prescribed testosterone and intravenous hydrogen peroxide
- The testosterone appeared to have hastened his death by stimulating the growth of his cancer.
- Short also improperly diagnosed Lyme disease.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Janet H. Bate, as Personal Representative of the
James Michael Shortt,
Case No. 3:06-cv-00647-MKP
Plaintiff, complaining of the Defendant herein, would show unto the Court as follows:
1. These actions for wrongful death and survival, pursuant to South Carolina Code §§ 15-51-10, et seq. and 15-5-90, are brought in the United States District Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
2. Plaintiff , Janet H. Bate (hereafter “Ms. Bate”), is a resident of and domiciled in Richland County, South Carolina, and is the duly appointed Personal Representative of the Estate of her late husband, Michael Andrew Robertson Bate (hereafter “Mr. Bate”), pursuant to an order of the Richland County Probate Court.
3. Defendant James Michael Shortt (hereafter “Defendant Shortt”) is, upon information and belief, a resident of and domiciled in the State of California who previously practiced medicine in the State of South Carolina until his license to practice was suspended by the State Board of Medical Examiners on April 13, 2005. All medical services rendered by Defendant Shortt set forth herein were delivered in South Carolina and within the scope and course of Defendant Shortt’s medical treatment.
4. Mr. Bate was first seen by Defendant Shortt, then a licensed medical doctor, on or about November 12, 2003, with a reported history that included Stage IV prostate cancer. Defendant Shortt promoted himself as a “longevity physician” and Mr. Bate sought his advice and treatment in his battle against cancer. Mr. Bate was particularly attractive to Defendant Shortt as a patient because, as a retired aerospace engineer, he had the financial means to pay personally for Defendant Shortt’s unconventional, potentially dangerous, and unproven therapies that bore little chance to be reimbursed by traditional health insurance carriers.
5. Over the ensuing months, Defendant Shortt administered a variety of expensive and dubious medical therapies to Mr. Bate, including the intravenous administration of hydrogen peroxide. The intravenous provision of hydrogen peroxide is an unapproved and dangerous practice that has been documented in the medical literature to produce serious and even fatal side effects, including destruction of a patient’s blood clotting functions. This therapy was repeatedly administered to Mr. Bate despite the fact that he had recently experienced severe blood clotting difficulties as a result of his cancer.
6. In addition to the “treatment” provided by Defendant Shortt, Mr. Bate was under the care of a board certified oncologist, Dr. Phillip Baldwin, to treat his prostate cancer. Mr. Bate was then receiving from Dr. Baldwin standard hormonal therapy for advanced prostate cancer, including the use of the drug Lupron, which is designed to reduce dramatically the patient’s testosterone level. This therapy is based upon the well established medical principle, widely accepted in the medical community, that prostate cancer grows and is fed by testosterone, and the reduction of this naturally occurring hormone often slows the advancement of prostate cancer. As a result of Dr. Baldwin’s hormonal therapy, Mr. Bate’s PSA had dropped from a high of over 400 to well below 50.
7. On or about June 10, 2004, Defendant Shortt prescribed testosterone for Mr. Bate, which fundamentally altered and undermined Dr. Baldwin’s ongoing medical therapy for Mr. Bate’s prostate cancer. Defendant Shortt did not consult with Dr. Baldwin, a cancer specialist, before proceeding with his contraindicated and dangerous therapy.
8. Defendant Shortt’s irresponsible use of testosterone on his prostate cancer patient resulted in an immediate explosion in Mr. Bate’s PSA level, rising from 30 to over 155 in just two weeks. The fivefold increase, reflective of a massive advancing cancer, was devastating to Mr. Bate and hastened his death six weeks later, on July 21, 2004. Mr. Bate suffered severe emotional distress as a result of Defendant Shortt’s outrageous conduct in prescribing testosterone to him, thereby countermanding the therapy protocol of Mr. Bate’s treating oncologist.
9. As a means of justifying additional unneeded treatment and sales of unconventional products to Mr. Bate, Defendant Shortt arranged for his patient to have his blood tested by Bowen Research and Training Institute, Inc. (hereafter “Bowen”) for Lyme disease. Bowen, based in Palm Harbor, Florida, is an uncertified laboratory not authorized to conduct laboratory testing. Additionally, the specific Lyme disease test utilized by Bowen is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration and reportedly has resulted in findings that 100% of the patients tested have Lyme disease.
10. As a result of Defendant Shortt’s use of this uncertified laboratory and unapproved test, Mr. Bate was diagnosed by Defendant Shortt to have Lyme disease. This diagnosis led Defendant Shortt to order additional, unconventional, and dubious therapies and to sell to Mr. Bate unneeded products for his supposed condition. Defendant Shortt did not, however, disclose to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Mr. Bate’s alleged Lyme disease, or that of any other of his numerous patients with a similar diagnosis, despite the fact that such reporting is required by South Carolina law.
11. At the time of Mr. Bate’s last hospitalization, he revealed to Dr. Baldwin the Lyme disease diagnosis of Defendant Shortt. Dr. Baldwin promptly consulted infectious disease specialists, who conducted appropriate and approved tests for Lyme disease, which established that Mr. Bate did not have and had not previously had Lyme disease.
12. In the course of treating Mr. Bate, Defendant Shortt advised his patient that he was able to arrange for him to obtain Laetrile, a potentially dangerous and unproven drug that is illegal to sell within the United States. Defendant Shortt provided Mr. Bate contact information for the illegal purchase of Laetrile within the United States and then provided instructions and related medications to facilitate his use of this unlawful drug.
13. On April 13, 2005, the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners suspended the medical license of Defendant Shortt, concluding that his “actions rendered him unfit to practice medicine and constituted a serious threat to the public health, safety, or welfare. . .”. Among the practices and acts cited by the Board of Medical Examiners to support its decision included the following:
a. Defendant Shortt “prescribed testosterone for a terminally ill prostate cancer patient;”
b. Defendant Shortt assisted the same patient in “obtaining Laetrile, a substance that is illegal in the United States;”
c. Defendant Shortt “diagnosed and treated patients for Lyme disease based only on the results of tests by an unaccredited, out-of-state laboratory with a 100% positive rate for Lyme disease” and “did not report the alleged Lyme disease cases to DHEC, as required by law;” and
d. Defendant Shortt “regularly infused patients with intravenous hydrogen peroxide. . .”.
14. Plaintiff demands a trial by jury.
FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
(Negligence, Gross Negligence, Wilful, Wanton, and Reckless Conduct)
15. Plaintiff realleges paragraphs 1-14 as if set out verbatim herein.
16. Defendant Shortt was negligent, grossly negligent, wilful, wanton, and reckless in the following particulars, with each subparagraph sufficient to support the relief sought:
a. Prescribing testosterone for a patient with prostate cancer;
b. Prescribing testosterone for a patient on hormonal therapy with Lupron for Stage IV prostate cancer, thereby undermining the treatment plan of the patient’s board certified oncologist;
c. Ordering a laboratory study for Lyme disease from an uncertified laboratory that utilized an unapproved test with a known history of 100% positive Lyme disease findings;
d. Ordering treatment for Lyme disease without a proper diagnostic work-up;
e. Administering intravenous hydrogen peroxide therapy;
f. Arranging for his patient to obtain and use Laetrile; and
g. Undertaking courses of treatment without medical justification primarily motivated by the potential income derived from the patient.
SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION
17. Plaintiff realleges paragraphs 1-16 as if set out verbatim herein.
18. Defendant Shortt’s conduct in ordering testosterone for his Stage IV prostate cancer patient was undertaken intentionally and recklessly and was substantially certain to produce and did produce severe emotional distress to Mr. Bate. Defendant Shortt’s conduct was extreme and outrageous, grossly departing from any semblance of routine and customary medical practice, and was beyond all bounds of decency.
19. As the direct and proximate result of the Defendant’s acts and omissions described above, Mr. Bate experienced, prior to his death, conscious pain and suffering and emotional distress and incurred unnecessary medical expense. Mr. Bate’s estate also incurred funeral expenses.
20. As the direct and proximate result of the Defendant’s acts and omissions described above, Mr. Bate’s statutory heirs have experienced mental shock and suffering, wounded feelings, grief and sorrow, loss of companionship, loss of financial support, and deprivation of Mr. Bate’s society, including his experience, knowledge, and judgment.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays unto the Court for the following relief:
A. Actual damages against defendant in an appropriate amount in excess of $75,000.00.
B. Punitive damages against defendant in an appropriate amount; and
C. Such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.
GERGEL, NICKLES & SOLOMON, P.A.
Richard Mark Gergel
Fed. I.D. #1027
P. O. Box 1866
1519 Richland Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29202
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF
March 3, 2006.
This page was posted on June 9, 2006.