A family medicine doctor in Florida who treated a man who had colon cancer in an effort to slow his disease’s progression was arrested in the same case and charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter on Thursday, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said.
In an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the Palm Springs News-Press, David Gossard, 65, of Deerfield Beach, Florida, was arrested Thursday after authorities found a plastic bag containing a syringe and a needle inside the apartment of his patient, identified as David E. Johnson, a 66-year-old cancer patient, according to the affidavit.
Authorities also found Johnson had a small amount of methamphetamine in his home.
He was released from jail on a $10,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court April 27, authorities said.
Gossard was charged with involuntary manslaughter, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
He is being held at the Palm Desert County Jail on a no-bond bond, the sheriff’s office said.
Johnson’s death sparked a national debate about how to treat people with cancer who can die at home.
Doctors and activists say that patients can be reluctant to take on medical challenges or to undergo procedures such as colonoscopies, surgery or chemotherapy that could kill them.
“I’ve been in this business my whole life, and I’ve never had a patient who had cancer that had that attitude,” Dr. Robert Siegel, a former surgeon general at the National Institutes of Health and a leading expert on the role of medical technology in the treatment of cancer, told ABC News.
“This patient, this cancer patient in particular, he had an attitude that they were the problem.
I think it’s a big problem.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Johnson’s family attorney, Scott Fuchs, told the AP that his client was in remission when he met Gossards in 2009 and that he had never been in such a situation.
Johnson died at his home on Jan. 29 after suffering from stomach and bowel cancer.
He had been treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital and other hospitals for a number of years, but he had been told he was at risk of dying, according a statement by Johnson’s hospital.
Johnson had been an internist at Johns I Hospital in Baltimore for 30 years, according the statement.
Fuchs said his client did not know about the fentanyl in the syringe, which had been manufactured by a company called EpiPen, which sells a powerful opioid that can be used to treat chronic pain.
Fuchs said the patient was a regular patient who needed medication to treat a condition that was curable.
“He was very sick and very sick at the time,” Fuchs told the Associated Press.
“We’re all sick at this point.
I’m sick, too.”
Fuchs also told ABC’s Good Morning America that he was stunned by the arrest of Gossars father, who is also a family doctor, after being contacted by Johnson and his mother, who also attended Johnson’s funeral.
“My dad’s been a huge supporter of my dad, and when this was brought up, he said, ‘I’m not going to talk about it,’ and he never did,” Fuss said.
“I can’t imagine him going into the courtroom today and saying he’s sorry for what he did.”
Fuss said he had not spoken to Johnson’s mother since the arrest and that she had been unaware of her son’s cancer.