Whatever happened to? Bonita stem cell doctor's case moves to decision stage

November 24, 2012

Photo by Allie Garza Zannos Grekos Interview with Dr. Zannos Grekos Editor's note: The Daily News takes an occasional look back at people and issues that have been in the local news, though not lately. Have an idea? Post it below this story at naplesnews.com or call (239) 435-3457 and leave a brief message. NAPLES ? There's been more legal wrangling since a state hearing last month to address Dr. Zannos Grekos' stem cell practice and if he committed medical malpractice or not. A few issues were left unresolved after the four-day hearing that was held in Naples, including whether videotaped testimony of a state Department of Health witness would be admitted for the administrative law judge to consider. Grekos' attorney, Richard Ozelie, of Boca Raton, sought to have the testimony of the witness stricken based on issues of how he arrived at his medical opinion in the case and related matters. The witness is Dr. Thomas Freeman, a professor of neurosurgery, molecular pharmacology and physiology with the University of South Florida's College of Medicine in Tampa. In a Nov. 15 order, Administrative Law Judge J. Lawrence Johnston ruled that the witness' testimony would be allowed. State health regulators last year restricted Grekos' license and forbid him to do anything with stem cells after a 69-year-old patient, Domenica Fitzgerald, died in 2010 shortly after undergoing a stem cell therapy in his practice in Bonita Springs. Grekos had extracted bone marrow from her and infused her unfiltered bone marrow into her circulatory system in hopes of alleviating nerve damage in her feet, which was limiting her mobility. The nerve damage was a side effect from chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment several years earlier. After the stem cell procedure, she suffered brain damage and was hospitalized. She later was taken off life support. In February, the state fully suspended Grekos' license after he and another physician, Dr. Konstantine Yankopolus, performed a similar stem cell therapy on a 77-year-old man, Richard Poling, who went into cardiac arrest in Grekos' practice and later died at a local hospital. A joint administrative hearing for both doctors will be held in that case, tentatively in February, but a motion is pending for a continuation. Grekos' attorney declined to comment this week on the status of the first case and when he and the state each face a deadline to submit proposed recommended orders for the judge to consider. Once that part of the proceeding is done, the judge usually has 30 days to issue his recommended order that goes to the state Board of Medicine. The medical board has the final say on whether Grekos violated standards of medical care or if Fitzgerald was fully informed that she was consenting to a novel medical treatment. The case has garnered considerable attention because it involves using a patient's own stem cells to potentially address chronic conditions, such as heart or respiratory failure, that no longer can be addressed by conventional medical treatments. Grekos' practice in Bonita Springs used to be called Regenocyte, located at 9500 Bonita Beach Road, and it has since been changed to Intercellular Sciences and he is listed as chief medical officer.