In April, 2003, the Discipline Committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario concluded that Dr. Ravi Devgan had committed acts of professional misconduct, in that he charged a fee that was excessive in relation to the service performed; made a misrepresentation respecting a remedy, treatment or device; placed himself in a conflict of interest; and he engaged in disgraceful, dishonorable or unprofessional conduct. In June 2003, the Discipline Committee revoked Dr. Devgan’s certificate of registration. The hearing was prompted by complaints from relatives of three cancer patients who died shortly after Devgan started them on treatment with Carnivora, a product made from an extract of the Venus Flytrap plant. Press reports indicate that two of the three patients paid $30,000 in advance for 24 treatments and the other paid $280 at each treatment session and Devgan refused to refund the any portion of the money. A summary of the decision is below. Click here for a full report.
In 1993, Devgan settled a charge of professional misconduct for having a conflict of interest in his dealings with a patient. He received a recorded reprimand and was fined $5,000. In 1996, he faced the criminal courts over the same matter and was convicted of defrauding the patient. At the same trial, he was convicted of making a false statement by misrepresenting himself as part owner of a restaurant in order to get a $98,500 loan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an import alert listing Devgan as having prescribed Laetrile, Life Crystals, and other unapproved drugs whose importation has been banned by the FDA. Devgan died in 2008.
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
Discipline Committee Decision
Dr. Ravi Devgan
It was alleged that Dr. Ravi Devgan committed acts of professional misconduct, in that:
- he had a conflict of interest;
- he made a misrepresentation respecting a remedy, treatment or device;
- he made a claim respecting the utility of a remedy, treatment, device or procedure other than a claim which can be supported as reasonable professional opinion;
- he falsified a record relating to his practice;
- he charged a fee that was excessive in relation to the service performed; and
- he committed an act or omission relevant to the practice of medicine that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.
Response to Allegations
Dr. Devgan denied the allegations.
The complaints were initiated by the relatives of three patients who were treated by Dr. Devgan for terminal cancer. All three patients are now deceased.
The panel heard the evidence of four relatives of the deceased patients. The relatives testified that Dr. Devgan told them that he would be able to cure the patients if they agreed to undergo intensive treatments. Two of the patients agreed to pay $30,000 U.S. for their individual care.
The wife and daughter of one of the patients also testified that they did not believe the signature on the Consent and Direction for Treatment form belonged to their relative. Neither recalled seeing the patient execute the document in their presence.
Dr. Devgan testified that his fees varied depending upon the treatment prescribed. He testified that the fees charged are based on his knowledge of fees charged by some clinics internationally, as well as the resources necessary to administer the clinic and for his “research.” The costs of research appeared to be largely travel-related costs.
Dr. Devgan denied telling Patient 1 and his family that he could cure that patient’s cancer, but he agreed that he knew they were looking for more than just pain relief. He told them that alternative medicine might help the patient and might give him strength to fight the cancer and might prolong his life.
Dr. Devgan agreed that he told Patient 2’s family that he had a patient similar to Patient 2 who had a tumor approximately the size of a grapefruit that had shrunk by 50% during the therapy offered by Dr. Devgan. That patient lived for five more years.
Regarding Patient 3, Dr. Devgan agreed that he told her that he would make her feel better. He testified that initially she improved quite dramatically and was able to go from sitting in a wheelchair to walking with a cane. However, at a certain stage, even though the dosage of medications was increased, improvement did not continue.
The office manager for Dr. Devgan had the responsibility of giving a new patient the forms which had to be signed, including the Consent and Direction for Treatment. The office manager testified that she was sure the forms were signed by Patient 1 when they were returned to her.
The Discipline Committee found that Dr. Devgan had committed professional misconduct, in that he had a conflict of interest; made misrepresentations respecting the treatments that he offered; and made claims respecting the utility of treatments that are not supported as reasonable professional opinion. The Discipline Committee also found that Dr. Devgan charged a fee that was excessive in relation to the service performed, and committed an act or omission relevant to the practice of medicine that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.
The Discipline Committee did not find that Dr. Devgan falsified a record.
The Discipline Committee found the four witnesses called by the College to be credible, sincere and forthright, and accepted their testimony as fact with the exception of the testimony the relatives of Patient 1 gave regarding the signature on the forms. The evidence presented about the signature on the consent forms did not satisfy the Discipline Committee that the signature was falsified.
The Discipline Committee found the overall fees charged (e.g., $30,000 U.S. for one person for one month’s treatment at six days per week) seemed excessive in relation to the underlying cost of the drugs, the fact that most treatments were administered by a nurse and the office support services were performed by one person.
The Discipline Committee was not satisfied that the vague references to Dr. Devgan’s research, which was the main basis offered for the added cost of treatment, were substantial enough to justify the fees charged.
Reasons for Penalty
Physicians practising in Ontario must uphold the core values of the profession. The public deserves to be confident that their doctors will treat them with expertise and honesty. Complementary medicine is not the issue here. A doctor may offer this type of care without compromising core values of the profession and without offering false hope. This Committee believes that in order to uphold the values of the profession and to protect the public, revocation is the only penalty that is appropriate in the circumstances of this case. Dr. Devgan preyed on his most vulnerable patients. The public needs protection from dishonest physicians who use their profession to exploit their patients.
The Discipline Committee directed the Registrar to revoke the certificate of registration of Dr. Devgan.
(Dr. Devgan appealed the decision of the Discipline Committee to the Superior Court of Justice.)
This page was posted on July 3, 2005.