Dr. Hellfried Sartori, who claims to cure cancer by injecting patients with an industrial solvent and sprinkling cesium chloride on their food, had his license revoked by D.C. authorities yesterday.
The D.C. Commission on the Healing Arts acted on the basis of Maryland's revocation of Sartori's license 11 months ago for professional incompetence.
Sartori's attorney, Richard L. Fields, said he will appeal the commission's ruling on Monday, but has advised Sartori not to practice medicine "until a court or the board rules otherwise."
The District, like 19 states, can revoke a doctor's license based on a similar action by another state. But what was handled in two to three months by Virginia and Washington State, other jurisdictions where Sartori held a license, took the District nearly a year to process.
North Carolina, while not revoking his license, requested in January that Sartori give up his license, a move that state considers a disciplinary action.
"The District should have acted far sooner to protect the lives and health of patients who were coming to him unaware of the dangers," said Suzanne Dogruyol, a Reston woman who worked as a counselor in Sartori's D.C. office in 1984 and later encouraged former patients, or their surviving relatives, to report their treatments to District and federal authorities.
P. Joseph Sarnella, director of the D.C. medical board, said the board is obligated to follow "administrative procedures," which are time consuming.
Delays also plagued the cases of two other doctors whose inactive D.C. licenses were revoked by the board yesterday. The license of Dr. Mahtab A. Mufti of Staten Island, N.Y., was revoked because of a 1981 conviction in New Jersey on seven counts of sexual assault. Horace C. Stevens, a Riverside, Calif., doctor, lost his license because of a 1978 drug conviction in California.
Sarnella said the board didn't act in Mufti's case until he was released recently from jail. He had "no comment" about why the board waited for seven years to take action on Stevens' case.
The D.C. board also revoked the license of Chris Simopoulos of Fairfax because the doctor was convicted of performing incomplete abortions in Virginia. The Virginia board revoked Simopoulos' license.
Sartori, an Austrian-trained doctor who emigrated to the United States in 1976, has a long history of problems with his practice. In addition to the medical boards' actions against him, he lost his privileges to practice at hospitals in North Carolina and West Virginia and lost his appointment as a Navy doctor.
Postal authorities in Baltimore arrested Sartori in 1982 after his federal indictment on charges of distributing cesium chloride to three cancer patients with intent to defraud.
That case resulted in a mistrial when U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Young decided his participation in the American Cancer Society could taint his impartiality.
Sartori injected an industrial-strength version of DMSO, a controversial solvent believed by many to relieve arthritis pain, into the veins of his cancer patients.
He had claimed in an earlier interview that he is being "persecuted by the forces of traditional medicine" who do not agree with his methods. Yesterday, he was out of town and could not be reached for comment.
He moved his practice to a basement apartment in a Connecticut Avenue building after Maryland authorities filed charges against him in 1982. Cancer patients, who learned of his claims through radio shows and health seminars, traveled from several states to receive treatments. Many stayed at a nearby hotel and at least two patients died in the hotel, according to complaints filed with the commission.
"We found a very unprofessional and unclean office, no back-up doctor, the uncaring attitude about Ken's obvious pain, the comments about Ken being able to get better only if he wanted to, and the fact that there was no proof of any cases verified that Dr. Sartori had cured," wrote three relatives of Ken Soule of Alaska. Soule died last Dec. 18 at the D.C. hotel after being treated by Sartori for five days at a cost of $3,900, according to a formal complaint filed with the healing arts commission.
"Dr. Sartori said his death was caused by cardiovascular failure because Ken had taken a hot bath," the complaint said. "The autopsy report showed death caused by metastatic carcinoma to the pancreas."
The D.C. board did not consider the many complaints lodged against Sartori, but acted only on the basis of Maryland's findings.
The Maryland revocation remains under appeal in Montgomery County Circuit Court.