Journal Retracts Stanford Docs’ Articles
The journal Surgical Laparoscopy, Endoscopy and Percutaneous Techniques has retracted a pair of research articles written by Drs. Camran and Farr Nezhat, directors of the Stanford Endoscopy Center for Training and Technology, in the "latest twist" in the controversy surrounding a surgical technique the brothers developed, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Feder, San Jose Mercury News, 2/21). The journal retracted research papers published in 1991 and 1992 that outlined a new surgical technique developed by the Nezhats and colorectal surgeon Dr. Earl Pennington to remove "painful" lesions called endometriosis from the colons of 16 female patients. The journal wrote that "(Farr Nezhat) has now admitted to significant discrepancies between the publication and the original medical records. Review of this and other court documents in the public record has led the [e]ditors to conclude that this paper inaccurately represents the data on which it is based. Further, the [e]ditors cannot be assured of the accuracy of an earlier publication that was part of the same clinical experience." While the Nezhats have argued that the procedure could help 185,000 U.S. women suffering from the condition, critics have called the operation "bizarre," "barbaric" and "unnecessarily dangerous" (Carlsen/Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/21).
The retraction resulted in part from testimony in a malpractice lawsuit against the Nezhats filed by a California woman who claims that she suffered permanent damage from the surgery. In an affidavit related to the suit, Farr Nezhat admitted "discrepancies" between the published research and the medical records of patients in the study. However, while lawyers for the plaintiff contend that the discrepancies included "serious medical problems" that the Nezhats failed to report in the journal articles, Farr Nezhat calls the claim "exaggerated." In a letter published in the journal, he dismissed the discrepancies as "minor," arguing that they "did not affect the final outcome of the research" (San Jose Mercury News, 2/21). Calling the retraction "premature," Cotchett, Pitre & Simon, the law firm representing the Nezhats, said in a statement, "The slight discrepancies in patient data had no impact on the paper's conclusions."
Dr. Peter Gregory, chief medical officer of Stanford Hospitals and Clinics, called the journal's decision to retract the articles "unusual" (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/21). "It is a serious matter. Both the reasons for it and the response of the authors, need to be part of our comprehensive review," he added (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/21). Last November, Stanford officials appointed an outside panel of investigators with "sweeping authority" to review the Nezhats' patient care and academic research records (San Jose Mercury News, 2/21).