California hospital pushed end-of-life care on cancer patients, oncologist's lawsuit claims

An oncologist is suing a California medical center, claiming that physicians there pressure patients to opt for end-of-life care and that the hospital has retaliated against him for speaking out against its practices, according to The Modesto Bee.

Dr. Robert Williams, who has had privileges at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto since 2003, alleges in the lawsuit that there have been several instances where in-house physicians at the hospital told patients to begin end-of-life care. In some of these cases, the patients were not given cancer treatments or care they needed, and in some, hospital providers recommended hospice care for cancer patients who were not terminally ill or were in cancer remission, the suit, which was filed last week, claims.

Dr. Williams also claims that he faced repercussions when he spoke out about these policies at the hospital. Nurses and hospitalists told patients he was crazy and did not follow his orders for treatment, Dr. Williams alleges.

He also claims the medical center wants to revoke his privileges. It restricted his hospital privileges in July 2018, and the suit alleges he was told not to speak with his patients once they were admitted. Dr. Williams claims he was informed Jan. 9 that the hospital's medical executive committee was investigating him for "creating (a) hostile work environment," the Bee reports.

Dr. Williams' attorney filed moved to prevent disciplinary action against him, and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for March 19 in Stanislaus County Superior Court in California.

In his lawsuit, Dr. Williams seeks an unspecified amount of general, special and punitive damages for several reasons, including "emotional distress." Fifty-one unamed defendants are also included in the lawsuit.

The hospital issued the following statement Feb. 5 to the Bee: "While we don't comment on pending litigation, at Doctors Medical Center, decisions on end-of-life care are made by the patient, the family or its representative and the treating physician."

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