Nevada Doctor Disciplined For Malpractice

A Carson City doctor has admitted to malpractice for failing to diagnose colon cancer in an elderly patient who later died of the disease, state officials said.

Dr. Frank Shallenberger entered a guilty plea before the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners last week concerning the care of his longtime patient, David Horton.

Ed Cousineau, deputy general counsel for the medical board, said
Shallenberger agreed to plead guilty in Horton's case to one count of malpractice. As a result, Shallenberger was fined $5,000, ordered to take 16 hours of classes on cancer screening, issued a public reprimand and ordered to pay investigation costs of about $6,500.

Shallenberger, licensed as a physician, is also licensed in Nevada as a homeopath, or alternative medical doctor.

In February 2000, Horton complained to Shallenberger of rectal bleeding and abdominal pain - symptoms of colon cancer.

But the medical board complaint said Shallenberger told Horton that he
suffered from hemorrhoids and advised him to use suppositories and
take baths in witch hazel.

"At no time from the initial presentation of medical symptoms did he examine the patient, order a test or record in the medical records why those actions weren't taken," Cousineau said.

Horton was later diagnosed by emergency room doctors with stage-four colon cancer and told he had six months to live.

He returned to Shallenberger for homeopathic cancer treatments,
records show.

Although Horton's son, Robert, is a biomedical scientist in the San Francisco Bay area and his daughter and daughter-in-law are medical doctors, Horton was an advocate of homeopathic medicine, his son said.

"It is ironic, though, that my dad kept going back to (Shallenberger)," Robert Horton told the newspaper.

"If my dad would have gone to a real doctor, he would still be alive," he said.

"They would have caught it before it spread."

Horton, 76, died in October 2003.

It's the second time in 12 years Shallenberger has been disciplined by the medical board.

In March 1995, Shallenberger surrendered his California medical license after four patients claimed he was incompetent and grossly negligent in their care.

Months later, Nevada's medical board gave him a public reprimand for surrendering his California license, stating, "Your conduct casts great discredit upon you personally and professionally, and upon the medical profession in general."