Terminally-Ill Cancer Patients Complain About Doctor Bills - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Terminally-Ill Cancer Patients Complain About Doctor Bills


You can see it in his face. You can hear it in his voice.  As far as Michael Gasaway was concerned, he had it all.

== Family Believed Son Would Pull Through ==

"The only thing he ever wanted to do was be married and have children. That was his dream," Michael's mom, Diana Gasaway said.

But fate had other plans for Michael. In 2005, the 25-year-old man heard two words no one wants to hear: terminal cancer.

"Never once did we think we were going to lose him,” Michael's mom said.

Michael was sure he could beat the horrific hand fate had dealt him.

"He was like my rock,” Michael's wife Diana Gasaway said. "So when he said he was going to be fine, I believed it."

The Fort Worth family spent 2005 and most of their life savings making trip after trip to Houston, seeing specialist after specialist.

== Son Makes Plea for Life ==

"He started getting worse by this time he was in a wheelchair," Michael's mother said.

After one doctor told them to give up and call hospice, Gasaway saw a rare sight. Tears streaming down her young son's face.

"He started crying," Gasaway said. "And he said I want to raise my babies. I want to raise my kids. He says isn't there something you can do?''

== Doctor’s Patients on Last Leg ==

"Most of our patients are those who've tried everything. They were told, ‘Sorry, there's nothing else we can do’," said Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski.

Burzynski is known around the world for his unorthodox and controversial cancer treatments. His medical use of urine and lengthy battles with the Food and Drug Administration, the Texas Attorney General's Office and the state medical board have made headlines for decades.

"Good and bad," Burzynski's attorney Richard Jaffe said. "He's a controversial guy."

"We're getting good results in a number of patients," Burzynski said. "And that's why people are coming to us."

== Son Dies After Treatments ==

Like scores of other terminally-ill cancer patients, Michael and his family saw the Burzynski Clinic as their last hope.

"We didn't even know where we were going to get the money to even do this," Michael's mother said.

The clinic requires large sums of cash up front.

Michael was in bad shape and only had a couple of treatments at the Burzynski Clinic before he died in an Arlington hospital.

"It's not like I'm complaining that they didn't help my son," Michael's mom said. "I'm complaining for the treatment after the fact when it came to the billing issues."

== Mom Runs into Billing Issues with Doctor ==

Although Michael never made it back home, his mom said the clinic mailed a case full of pills.

"Why are you sending a case that costs $4,500?” Gasaway said.

Michael's mom sent the unopened pills back to the clinic and a letter requesting her money back. As Diana Gasaway points out in her complaint to the Better Business Bureau, she wrote five letters to the clinic in 2006 asking for a refund.

"I just persisted with these letters thinking they had to see it was so obvious there's no way they could deny this," Gasaway said. "They did."

== BBB Says Circumstance is Tragic ==

In it's one and only letter back, the clinic told Gasaway in 2006 she wasn't getting a refund and they didn't want to hear from her again.

"I just wonder how many people don't come forward to complain about it because of the grief they’re going through because I'm telling you, at the time, it was hard to deal with them," Gasaway said. "I was angry that they made me do it."

"It's just heartrending these people, these patients are on their last hope. They’re wanting to survive and battle their diseases and this is an added burden to them," Leah Napolieo with the BBB said.

Last month, the BBB was reporting the Burzynski Clinic with an "F" rating due to half a dozen unresolved or unanswered complaints.

Those complaints, according to the BBB deal with billing issues. Patients claiming they were billed for services they didn't receive or that had already been paid by their insurance company.

== Doctor Brushes Away Complaints ==

When we asked Burzynski about the BBB's "F' rating he told us he wasn't aware of it.

"I don't think he liked hearing it," Jaffe said.

No he didn't.  The doctor let FOX 26 Investigates know how he felt about us pointing it out.

“Ten years from now you'll be proud that I was sitting here with you across,” Burzynski said. "You'll be ashamed that you were talking about a few little complaints which were filed with the Better Business Bureau.”

== Doctor Changes Tune Days Later ==

But within days of our interview, the clinic was not only responding to the BBB complaints, refunds were being promised as well.

The clinic wrote to Michael's mom telling her a refund check for $9,000 was on it's way.

"To be honest and fair and give credit where credit's due, it's because of you guys," Jaffe said. "You pointed this out."

The BBB currently has no rating listed for the clinic since the clinic is now in the process of resolving all the complaints.

"I think that Burzynski was surprised, shocked and to some degree horrified that these complaints were out there," Jaffe said. "Now people have to report to him weekly about anybody who files a complaint."

== Medical Board Files Complaint Against Doctor ==

Meanwhile Burzynski is once again under fire by the Texas Medical Board. In December, the medical board filed this complaint against Burzynski: accusing him of prescribing drugs to two cancer patients that don't meet FDA regulations regarding the use of off label drugs.

"We're moving to dismiss the complaint and for sanctions because we feel the evidence in their files actually shows that a large part of it is just not true," Jaffe said.

“I think they'll see the light when we see each other in court," Burzynski said. "We are going to win and they will see how stupid they are."

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