Wrist slap for stem cell specialist
Innsbruck – An Austrian physician has been fined EUR4,500 in a case involving a controversial stem cell therapy for incontinence. In early August, an Innsbruck Regional Court adjudged Hannes Strasser, who developed the method, at fault for false testimony and tampering with evidence. The urologist has promoted his concept at conferences since 2003.
The therapeutic aim was to strengthen the muscle that keeps the urethra closed, thereby preventing bedwetting. In the disputed method, connective tissue and muscle from the upper arm were initially removed from patients, processed in the laboratory, and then inserted into the urethral sphincter. Nearly 400 patients were treated over the years. The problem is, the doctor apparently did not prove the use and safety of his treatment in clinical studies, nor did he have permission to carry out large Phase III tests. The prosecutor determined that only 21 of the patients were approved by an ethics commission.
A German patient filed suit in 2008 for a refund. In the subsequent case, the court has now considered it proven that the former senior physician made false statements and tampered with the evidence in a civil case. In an interview with Austrian broadcaster ORF, Strasser expressed disappointment at the verdict: “I’m annoyed that I have not been cleared completely.” The ruling, however, is not yet final. The case has been submitted for review to a higher regional court.