In the meantime, he has launched a website to raise money for his defense and to repay patients money they invested in vaccines Catanzaro was ordered to destroy following his suspension.
Catanzaro's Health and Wellness Institute of Integrative Medicine and Cancer Treatment is still open and treating patients, but Catanzaro is not. The state Department of Health suspended his license to practice Jan. 28.
“I am a doctor and I am full of compassion and the desire to help others,” Catanzaro said in an interview. “My heart is broken over all of this. These are stage 4 cancer patients waiting on treatments we had to throw away and I just want to be able to pay them back for all they've lost.”
Catanzaro asked for a settlement opportunity and hearing to contest the Washington Sate Department of Health's statement of charges against him, issued Jan. 24.
The state contends that Catanzaro developed an experimental treatment for patients called an autologous peptide vaccine, made from the patient's own body tissue, blood and serum, to help battle cancer. The protocol was unsafe, the state alleges, and his patients experienced injury or were placed in “unreasonable risk of harm.”
Catanzaro is set to have a preliminary hearing in August, but his legal team is seeking to settle the matter out of court.
“I'd rather not go to court because that means that delays me from practicing medicine even longer,” Catanzaro said.
Catanzaro's website, titled “John Cantazaro's Fight for Cancer,” features videos of him discussing his practice and philosophies, his patients speaking about how his treatments helped them and ways to donate.
Catanzaro said it was a lead oncologist at a larger cancer institute who reported him to the state Department of Health. A mutual patient with stage 4 aggressive breast cancer had originally gone to the oncologist. She was told she didn't have long to live and there were no options for her, Catanzaro said. The patient was referred to Catanzaro by a friend, started treatment with him and began to see improvements immediately.
“It took about a month and then her tumor was completely gone,” Catanzaro said. “I think when the patient went back to the oncologist, the oncologist thought the patient was not correctly informed of the treatments she was receiving by me. But she was fully informed and signed her consent form.”
The oncologist reported him to be an imminent threat to patients in February 2012 and Catanzaro was suspended January.
“I am not an imminent threat to my patients; none were harmed and this was not even a patient complaint, this was an institution complaint,” Catanzaro said. “I'm not looking to bash any agency. I believe there is a bigger message here and that message is that it should be a patient's right to choose what kind of treatment they want and a doctor should have the freedom to practice it.”
Catanzaro hopes his predicament at least will serve as a platform for discussing alternative medicine and a patient's right to choose their care.
“I've always advocated blended care and have never discouraged patients from seeking conventional options,” he said. “My treatments can be a great addition for, say, a patient going through chemotherapy treatments because what I offer can help thwart the side effects of the chemotherapy.”
Catanzaro said the suspension has caused financial trouble for his family due to legal costs and it has hit his business, as he can no longer treat his specialized patients.
“This has put everyone in a very difficult position,” he said. “I don't have any patients mad at me, they are very supportive and don't understand why this is happening.”
Catanzaro's website is at www.fightforcancer.com.
Sarah Kehoe at the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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