Doctor admits to malpractice in cancer case

RENO -- 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, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Monday.

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.