N.Y. Doctor Found Negligent in Unusual Cancer Treatment Case
A doctor who received network television attention for unusual cancer treatments that include coffee enemas was told by a jury Thursday to pay the husband of a dead patient $282,000.
The jury found Dr. Nicholas J. Gonzalez negligent for telling Hollace Schafer, a college music professor, that by testing her hair he could diagnose the state of her cancer and prescribe appropriate treatment. Schafer died in 1995.
The verdict was the second against the 51-year-old Gonzalez. In 1997, a jury ordered him to pay the family of Julianne Charell, 64, more than $2 million because of his unorthodox treatment of her uterine cancer.
The jury in the Schafer case found Gonzalez negligent for not arranging proper testing to determine her condition, and they found that this contributed to her death from Hodgkin’s disease--cancer of the lymph system.
Schafer’s husband, Jack C. Gray, sued Gonzalez in 1996, charging that he used quackery instead of proven medical regimens to treat his wife with vitamins, dietary manipulation, purges, animal tissue extracts and enzymes.
Gray’s lawyer, Maria del Pilar Ocasio, said Gonzalez’s cancer treatment also called for four to 10 coffee enemas a day to “detoxify” Schafer’s gastrointestinal system. Ocasio said the doctor “brainwashed” Schafer to make her believe this would work.
Schafer, who was 40 when she died in 1995, was first diagnosed with cancer in 1977, Ocasio said. Twice she had been treated with chemotherapy and twice her cancer had gone into remission. When the cancer appeared a third time, she decided to try alternative treatment.
The jury found Schafer, an assistant professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., 51% liable for her own death, while Gonzalez was ruled 49% liable.
The apportioning of liability showed the jury believed the defense argument that Schafer, who had a doctorate in musicology, was an intelligent woman who researched her treatment options and chose Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s cancer treatment was the topic of an ABC-TV news special and a segment on CBS-TV’s “48 Hours.”
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