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Doctors Found Guitly of Malpractice
May 14, 2010

A civil jury found two doctors committed malpractice in their treatment of an Italian cancer patient but were not responsible for her death, a mixed verdict that did little to resolve larger questions about a controversial cancer treatment program at Staten Island University Hospital.

The hospital - led by the oncologist Dr. Gilbert S. Lederman - had opened a satellite office in Naples to recruit patients for a specialized targeted radiation treatment in Staten Island. About 200 Italian cancer patients paid $17,500 for the treatment, lured by promotional materials that promoted "success" and "cure" rates above 90 percent. None of the patients were cured.

The verdict delivered late Thursday evening was for the only surviving wrongful death claim against Dr. Lederman and Dr. Philip J. Silverman among more than 20 filed in a sweeping lawsuit. The suits had been whittled down considerably by Judge I. Leo Glasser of United States District Court for the Eastern District in Brooklyn.

The Italian woman, Giuseppa Bono, a mother of three, died in May 2002, more than a year after being treated by the hospital for pancreatic cancer. The lawyers for her husband argued that she actually had pancreatitis and that the hospital had failed to do the necessary due diligence - like taking a biopsy - before providing her radiation treatment. The lawyers for the two doctors argued that Ms. Bono had been diagnosed with and treated for cancer in Italy and the radiation in Staten Island helped improve her symptoms and prolong her life.

The jury appeared sympathetic to both arguments in a note sent shortly before the verdict was delivered. "We feel the doctors made mistakes and may be guilty of malpractice but did not cause her death," the note said. Because the doctors were found not to be responsible for the death there was no monetary award.

Bruce G. Behrins, a lawyer for Ms. Bono's husband, promised to appeal.

Dr. Lederman has had previous legal troubles. He was sued in 2004 by the widow of George Harrison of the Beatles, and was accused of forcing Mr. Harrison, who was dying, to autograph a guitar for his son, and of violating patient confidentiality. He settled the suit but was censured and forced to leave the hospital.


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