✓ University probably stuck with entire tab

A consistently reliable source has told a Deputy Duke Checker that several patients who have made malpractice claims against the cancer quack, Dr. Anil Potti, and his former employer, Duke University, have settled for large amounts of money. 

As a matter of policy, Duke will insist on a confidentiality agreement in the settlements, preventing victims and their lawyers from ever talking. There have been at least 11 previous settlements, according to public records.

The victims all have the same experience: coming to Duke desperately ill with cancer, being given hope by Potti, and finding out his treatment theories were fraudulent.  

The victims were enrolled in clinical trials — experiments on human beings — for which Potti obtained their “informed consent.” If the trials had been authentic and yielded a test to reveal to doctors how to target specific cancers in each individual, Potti and Duke stood to make billions — billions — from world-wide licensing of the test.  

As it turned out, Potti just phonied up the data to yield the conclusions he wanted. And Duke conceded letting Potti do  his experiments — despite many warnings that his data was screwed up — was a major “mistake.”

To boot, Potti lied on his resume repeatedly to get hired at Duke and to get grants, even creating a Rhodes Scholarship for himself. He and his mentor, Dr. Joseph Nevins, and others have now retracted or substantially corrected 18 research papers published in the most prestigious medical journals. 

Potti left Duke in disgrace in November, 2010,  the University having merely suspended him (and not kicking his butt out) pending a secret, formal investigation that, so far as we can find out, is still going on. Potti did land jobs in South and North Carolina but was canned when the new employers found out about a “60 Minutes” expose of the harm he had done at Duke.  

Despite the confidentially, we will still have two windows:

– if the people who settled are already part of a lawsuit, it will become public record when they file a motion asking their names be deleted. There will be no indication of what each individual was paid.

– and if the settlements are more than $75,000 each, as they are bound to be, they must be reported to the North Carolina Medical Board, which licenses physicians.  The Board will then post notice — without naming the victim or the amount received above $75,000 — on its website.

It’s believed that all the people who have settled are represented by the Raleigh law firm Henson, Fuerst, which has taken the lead in filing the larger of two lawsuits against Potti and Duke.  We believe some of the people who have settled are clients of the firm — but have only warned of lawsuits and had not yet joined in existing litigation.

The senior partner in the firm, Robert Henson Sr., did not return e-mails requesting comment. His silence could be interpreted, possibly, as supporting our report, because Henson has gotten back to us promptly on repeated occasions.

The Medical Board already lists 11 settlements above its threshold for reporting.   In one of these settlements, the board had for months stated on its website that it was conducting its own independent investigation into unspecified actions by Potti — but without any public comment, the board has taken down that notice and apparently ended that inquiry.

Meantime, on September 8, Potti got another license to practice medicine in another state. Minnesota gave him a license — probably because the Cancer Center of North Dakota, where Potti practices now, has branches in nearby Minnesota as well.

The Center is in Grand Forks, near the University of North Dakota, where Potti served as a resident after receiving his medical degree in India. The Center was founded by Dr. William Noyes, who has stated Potti is a victim of unfair accusations and the negative news is “a dead issue.”

The Minnesota license is reported on line. It states that there have been no disciplinary actions against Potti but it is not clear if that applies only to Minnesota, but also to North Carolina and Missouri. Missouri requires Potti to inform any hospital he serves at and any co-worker about his background. North Carolina gave him a public reprimand, a mere slap on the wrist.

A Deputy has been assigned to obtain the documents that Potti filed with the Minnesota authorities to obtain a license. These would include a personal statement and letters of recommendation. Some states do not release the file, but South Carolina did, and it was most illuminating how Potti twisted himself into the new job. Duke’s chief cancer doctor also wrote Potti an effusive letter that became part of the South Carolina public record — calling this a mistake after DukeCheck revealed it.

In all likelihood Duke is on the hook for all of the malpractice settlements — and probably for Potti legal bills in defending against them. This absurdity arises because the University provides malpractice insurance to all of its doctors.

Duke is believed to swallow the initial costs of any settlement and to have insured against higher payments.  But the insurance is probably with Duke’s in-house insurance company, which gets premiums every year and builds up surpluses — so it’s really university money in the end. This mysterious insurance company was founded in the Caribbean and is now located in Bermuda — the better to avoid taxes and to keep prying eyes out of its business.

We know more, particularly disturbing facts about the treatment of the plaintiffs by Duke lawyers. We cannot do a story on this yet.

Thank you for reading DukeCheck and joining in love for this great university!

UNC announced Thursday night that its basketball coach, Roy Williams, does not have cancer. There was a big scare from two tumors — one on each kidney. The right tumor was removed in a surgical procedure. The left was biopsied, with the warning that if it were cancerous, it too would be cut out.

But Williams was cleared. He’s expected at an all night vigil October 12th and the team’s first practice October 13.

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One Response to ✓ University probably stuck with entire tab

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