Doctors intentionally added feces to patient brains, hospital fined $50,000 after three people die


A hospital has found itself in deep trouble after neurosurgeons introduced fecal bacteria (aka feces) to the brains of several patients, who ultimately died from the procedure. The hospital in question is UC Davis Medical Center, and right now two of its neurosurgeons could end up losing their jobs after pulling of this highly controversial procedure.

Three reported patients lost their lives to this procedure, all of which suffered from a last stage brain tumor (that would have killed them had the feces not). Furthermore, we understand the feces were prepped to eat away at tumor cells in the brain (aka it was designed to help treat brain tumors), but as you’ve come to find out, it didn’t work out as the doctors would have liked.

According to Health Leaders Media, this kind of procedure has never been tested on humans, so it is quite surprising to see two neurosurgeons take it upon themselves to fill the heads of patients with “shit,” literally. Furthermore, from what we understand, both doctors performed the feces to the brain procedure without alerting the patients and the hospital’s pharmacy.

UPDATE: It appears that patient consent was given to the doctors.

We understand these doctors might have thought they were onto something here, but without previous human trials, we feel this move was completely crossing the line and they should be punished severely. Sure patient consent was given but, as a healthcare giver, a doctor is in a position of power where most patients will listen to whatever advice they give. Indeed, doctors are the experts and if they tell a patient something, most patients will listen. We don’t know if the patients were properly warned of the risks or not, but we feel it is highly irresponsible for doctors to recommend patients to try procedures that have never been tested before. They may or may not lose their licenses, but at least UC Davis Medical Center was fined $50,000 due to this irresponsibility.

At the risk of sound like a jerk, I must say: this brings a whole new meaning to the term “poop for brains.”

[via Health Leaders Media, image via Assisted Living]

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  • JMJ

    [@Ashraf] Now we’re on the same page! My thinking and feeling here is the same as with the Snowden matter: The guys were wrong for the right reasons. They were in the horrible position of either following the rules or doing what was right. If the facts are as I understand them to be, all should be sanctioned and tried according to the rules and laws; if found culpable and guilty, they should be pardoned, excused, held harmless.

    Can you imagine a world where M.L. King, Mahatma Ghandi, Berthold Beitz and the Albanian Muslims during WW II, or even Salah al-Din, followed the rules? A much, much more troubled place this would be.

  • Ashraf

    [@JMJ] I would argue the doctors were only in the right if they properly informed the patients of the risks, informed them about the beyond experimental nature of the procedure, and didn’t pressure them into accepting it. Otherwise, this is unethical through and through.

  • JMJ

    [@David Roper]No one argues that these Doctors did not violate protocol or that they did not follow established rules. My argument is that, with patients’ informed consent in their violating the rules, these Doctors did the right thing.

    I have a college friend who started her medical career as a trauma surgeon. As an employee of a hospital in New York, she was strictly forbidden to offer medical assistance at, for example, the scene of a car accident! Many physicians stopped offering similar assistance because of the fear of being sued if things went south.

    These heroic doctors appear to have dismissed any considerations other than what was in the best interests of their patients. They should be censured for their violations and suffer NO punishments beyond that.

    HISTORICAL ASIDE: Some time in the 1700’s a British ship foundered at sea. One small group of its seamen were adrift for some thirty days in a lifeboat. They agreed to draw lots to choose which one of them would be killed and eaten. The loser was, indeed, killed and eaten. Eventually, the survivors were rescued. They stood trial in England for murder and cannibalism, were convicted and had their sentences commuted. Justice.

  • David Roper

    As a former Pharmaceutical representative, I can say this was way out of bounds as I see it. Even with Patient consent. The trials should have been made under FDA authority and on Prisoners for a trial base.

    $50,000? Come on (as Giovanni would say), that’s not nearly enough for this unapproved operation. $5,000,000 each would be more inline and that comes from the hospital since the doctors would not have nearly that much unless their insurance covered it.

    The people lost from this foolish frolic are gone, but their families need to be compensated.

    There, now let the voting begin. Oops, wrong forum.

  • Ashraf

    [@J.L.] [@Joseph Allgren] You are entitled to your opinion. I agree that Vamien should have originally clarified that it is fecal bacteria and not the brown stuff, and should have toned down the sensationalism. However, I have no issue with referring to fecal bacteria as feces.

    [@JMJ] [@Circle Walker] [@Mikerman] Thanks for pointing out that mistake. I’ve updated the article to reflect patient consent was given. #fail

    [@JMJ] It is there by default and is an advert, so to say, but it is an advert for dotTech’s sister site, SharewareOnSale. You can close it, if you wish, by pressing the white X in the right corner after which it won’t appear to you for 7 days.

  • Mikerman

    And so, according to the Sacbee article, patient consent had been given. The issue came down to, were the docs using the patients for research, or caring for them first?

    (And in my humble opinion and with all due respect to dotTech, the article here is insensitive and sensationalizing when referencing that the docs “added feces to patient brains” and the like. To me, as a layperson, that has me thinking that brown refuse was put into the patients’ brains–adding microbes is entirely different. A but too tabloid here, methinks . . . .)

  • JMJ

    [@etim] Unless they’ve put a check in the mail and, I mean, one not made of rubber, to hell with them. The man’s got to eat.
    The entitlement mentality that pervades much of the Internet amazes me. All those anonymous Utopians must still be living at home with mom and have never had to pay a bill.

    Oh, well.

    For the record, Whippersnapper, not all of us old s.o.b.’s are grouchy. ;-)

  • Joseph Allgren

    “And the difference between feces and fecal bacteria for the layman, is what?” Well, one is shit and one isn’t. Fecal bacteria can be found in feces. It doesn’t mean they ARE feces. The terms are hardly “interchangeable.” You can also find corn in shit. That doesn’t mean corn and shit are interchangeable terms.

  • etim

    [@JMJ] Too many grouchy ol’ SOBs bitched about it.
    When I 1st saw it I thought, “Cool! Ashraf scored a fat ad contract!”

  • JMJ

    [@etim] Thanks. I figured it would be better for dotTech if it displayed by default.

    Btw, who in god’s name remembers ‘Victorinox’ off the top of his head? :-0 Remind me never to play Trivial Pursuit against you.

  • etim

    [@JMJ] Just click the little Victorinox logo in the upper right corner.

  • Circle Walker

    Actually, if you go to the site you given us and read the pdf report, the patients gave the doctors all the consent they need. Stated in the 2nd page of the document. “The consent forms, which were signed by each patient and at least one other family member.” The real issue is just legal problems for the doctors and hospital as a whole. As regard for the consent: if you actually in medical field, it is understood that anything medical providers do to you must be sign by you, the patient, or legal guardians. So you can’t sue them in most cases of course. The doctors tried something innovative, they tried to SAVE the patients knowing that this was a brand new method and may not, with a high probability of not, works. If it worked, do you think there is any fuss to it? They probably given Nobel prize, or whatever highest in science award.


  • JMJ

    OFF TOPIC: Hey, Ashraf, is the red advert banner hidden by default? I, for one, find it unobtrusive yet eye catching.

    Now, back to our regularly scheduled Ashraf-bashing….

  • J.L.

    Feces somehow mean fecal bacteria instead of fecal matter for layman… I wonder about that, most people would find it an insult to their intelligence in my opinion. Seriously, who actually thinks feces and fecal bacteria means the same thing?

    The only use of the word feces is to attract attention, so it’s completely unnecessary outside of the title. Then you can start with: “By feces, we actually meant fecal bacteria” or something like that.

    Lastly, fecal is an adjective that is not equivalent of the noun feces. It simply means of or relating to feces, which makes fecal transplant technically correct compared to feces.

  • JMJ

    [@Ashraf] If @kevbo’s reference is accurate and to be believed, then, according to its third paragraph: “All three patients consented to the procedures in 2010 and 2011.” Had they not been informed and had they not consented, then I would agree with you. You are simply mistaken here.

  • Ashraf

    [@etim] I was referring to our article. And the article you refer to, it says: “The hospital’s chief medical officer told investigators that he had given the neurosurgeons permission to go forward with the first experiment only if they received appropriate approvals. When the doctors performed the first procedure without those approvals, issued a cease and desist order, but the surgeons went ahead anyway.” That is were our inference was made. Vamien will have to clear it up a bit more, though.

    [@Joseph Allgren] By the way, if you read the source link we used for this article, it states: “An unapproved fecal transplant research experiment in end-stage brain cancer patients in Davis”. If a healthcare website describes it as that, I’m not sure why we can’t do the same. Which we did.

    [@JMJ] I disagree with you. Just because they had less than 15 months left to live does not mean doctors can attempt unapproved, unsafe procedures. Essentially, the doctors used the patients as lab rats and they deserve to be punished in my opinion. I can see your point of view that if it had a chance to save the patients, it is worthwhile even if it isn’t a tested procedure. However, from what I understand, the doctors did not receive proper approval from the patients themselves. That, in my opinion, is the biggest issue here.

  • JMJ

    Relying on the research done by @etim and @kevbo, and not having done more than reference their sources and my own knowledge and experience, like most of the commenters above, I take strong issue with the characterization of the doctors’ actions, the tone and wording of this article and, especially coming from Ashraf, the presumption that “the system” is and should be the final arbiter of right-and-wrong, good-and-bad, humane-and-inhumane. We know that, often, it errs.

    Ashraf & Company and I have crossed swords before on the intentional use of inflammatory rhetoric and choices of words to garner attention for an article. I maintain that it is yellow journalism while Ashraf & Co. maintain that it is a harmless exercise of journalistic license that ‘everybody does’.

    I think that, as he often does, Ashraf seasoned this article with his own unique sense of humor that, I’ll wager, most of usually enjoy. However and especially in matters of life and death, jail and freedom, moral and immoral, we justifiably hold him to a stricter standard that cannot include reporting for effect: Unbiased, objective, well-researched facts are all that should be shared with dotTech’s readers. Usually, I think, Ashraf & Co. adhere to this paradigm but not in this case.

    Bad joking, Ashraf. :-( Fellow dotTechies, cut him some slack.

    These physicians acted *properly* in the best interests of their patients. Per etim and kevbo’s research, these three patients had, on average, fewer than 15 months to live. These BRAVE doctors knew the risk-to-self and the umbrage they courted when, in desperation they INNOCULATED their terminally ill patients with potentially helpful microbes —as routinely is done for measles, tuberculosis, polio, rubella, typhus, etc., etc. The fact that these particular microbes can be found in feces is TOTALLY irrelevant and to use their source/location as fodder for some “Oh, my goodness!” article is disingenuous.

    Three human beings were going to die. Three physicians, WITH informed consent from those patients, used every means at their disposal to defer or to prevent those deaths. Apparently, they did not get all (any?) of the approvals, authorizations, permissions from all the agencies and authorities normal protocols require. Those *passes* can and take days, months, YEARS to secure by which time their patients would be dead.

    Of course and as usual, especially in my beloved America which has more attorneys that the rest of the world combined(?), somebody is suing somebody. Big surprise.

    They did the right, moral, medical thing: They tried to save their patients. Legal, *ethical*, approved? Maybe not but, if I ever get terminally ill, these three PHYSICIANS are the kind I hope treat me.

  • etim

    [@Ashraf] Are we looking at the same article? This is the one I was looking at (taken from the end of THIS blog)

  • Ashraf

    [@etim] Erm, it says it right there: Furthermore, both doctors performed the feces to the brain procedure without alerting the patients and the hospital’s pharmacy. See third paragraph.

    I wouldnt lie and say it is there when it isnt; Im not one to hide behind mistakes, I prefer admitting and fixing if I feel it necessary.

  • etim

    [@Ashraf] The article referenced says no such thing.

  • Ashraf

    [@etim] You can argue semantics all you want but the article clearly stated it was done without alerting the patients.

    [@Joseph Allgren] And the difference between feces and fecal bacteria for the layman, is what? Nothing as far as I’m concerned — the terms are interchangeable. This isnt a science journal. We always “dumb down” topics as much as we can to reach the largest audience, without altering the facts. That is what a blog is. If you don’t like it, go read a science journal.

  • etim

    [@kevbo] Thanks, Kevbo–that clears up a lot.

  • kevbo

    Were these doctors related to Josef Mengele?

    There is a more complete story concerning what happened and its aftermath here:

  • The key point here, IMO, is that this is an experimental procedure performed without the patient’s consent, not the wording of the article. Those Doctors will “probably loose their jobs” is an understatement IMO. Chances are they will never work in medicine again, regardless of whether their licenses are revoked or not. The families will, and should under these circumstances, sue them and almost certainly the hospital too. Hospital administrators will fire them to minimize potential damage from the lawsuit and no insurance company will ever insure them against lawsuits again. Without that insurance, no medical professional dares to practice now.

  • Mikerman

    “Furthermore, both doctors performed the feces to the brain procedure without alerting the patients and the hospital’s pharmacy.”

    And so, this was done without patient consent? If so, regardless of the condition of the patients, that’s criminal and civil assault and the doctors, however well-meaning, should be treated accordingly.

  • Joseph Allgren

    You haven’t clarified anything. Your article mentions “feces,” “shit,” and “poop,” but only once mentions “fecal bacteria,” which is what was actually introduced into the patients’ brains. Again, no feces came anywhere near those brains, yet your article repeatedly states that it did. If by “clarifying” you mean your “aka feces,” “aka” stands for “also known as,” and that only reinforces your mistaken belief that actual feces had something to do with the procedure. This is shoddy, schlock reporting.

  • etim

    [@Ashraf] Yeah, I did read the articles– twice.
    It doesn’t mention the issue of informed consent at all.
    It just says it was done “without approvals”.
    Patients give consent, bosses, lawyers and committees give approvals.

  • Ashraf

    [@etim] [@etim] Did you read the article before commenting? We clearly mentioned why the fecal matter was put in the brains and mentioned how the Drs supposedly didnt get patient consent.

    You are right we did liberally use the word feces in place of fecal bacteria and Ive added an update clarifying that point.

  • etim

    [@RealBull] I’m sure that extensive consent was obtained from the patients–and their families–it was just that the docs hadn’t got “consent” from the suits (or their lawyers) up in the admin. offices.

  • etim

    OK. First of all, no “feces” was put in their brains.
    Fecal (coliform) bacteria, which was most likely a pure strain that hadn’t been in actual feces in decades.
    The patients were end stage glioblastoma patients and these were likely last resort situations.
    The docs were hoping to use the bacteria to infect the tumors, probably by injecting a tiny amounts directly into the tumors, hoping to create an abscess that would kill the cancer and could be drained later.

  • RealBull

    “…two of its neurosurgeons could end up losing their jobs…”

    What??? That’s it??? They performed an experimental procedure without anyone’s consent and all they get is “they could lose their jobs”???
    They should lose their licenses AND go to jail.