Hearing starts for doctor accused of using stem cell procedure

An administrative hearing got underway Tuesday between state health care regulators and Dr. Zannos Grekos, a Bonita Springs cardiologist, regarding his controversial stem cell practice and whether he committed medical malpractice.

More than a dozen observers are present in the Collier County courtroom, many of them supporters of Grekos who have said previously that he changed his life when he injected them with their own stem cells to treat damaged heart muscle, lung tissue or for spinal injuries.

The state Department of Health in 2011 issued an emergency restriction on Grekos medical license, ordering him not to do anything with patients and their own stem cells.

The order came after an investigation found he had had performed stem cell procedure in 2010 on a 69-year-old woman, using her own blood, in hopes it would provide relief against nerve damage in her legs that occurred from earlier breast cancer treatment. After the treatment with Grekos, she suffered brain damage and later was taken off life support.

Three family members of the patient, Domenica Fitzgerald, are present and her husband, John Fitzgerald, will be a witness for the state. The start of the hearing is bittersweet for him and his family.

We need closure, he said.

Grekos is fighting the state's complaint and is seeking to have his license reinstated. Before the start of the hearing and during breaks, Grekos greeted his supporters and hugged several of them.

The hearing is before administrative law judge J. Lawrence Johnson, and is scheduled to last four days. The judge has ordered witnesses not to be present in the courtroom except during their testimony.

In opening statements, the prosecutor for the state health department, Robert Milne, said that the treatment Grekos performed had no scientific backing in research, and a neurosurgeon with the University of South Florida will testify about that.

In addition, Milne said that chemotherapy destroys stem cells and so Grekos' extraction of bone marrow aspirate in the patient, to use her stem cells, had no therapeutic value.

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Hearing starts for doctor accused of using stem cell procedure

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