Local News

Physician Suspended For Use Of Controversial Treatment

Posted June 15, 2006

— The state Medical Board has suspended for a year the license of a Charlotte doctor for the way he treats Lyme disease.

Dr. Joseph Jemsek was accused of misdiagnosing patients and treating them with long-term intravenous antibiotics. That method goes against standard practices for treating the tick-borne illness.

The board says Jemsek can keep his medical privileges until July when he meets again with the board.

Jemsek greeted his patients and supporters Thursday as they awaited the outcome of his trial. In an interview with WRAL, he said he expected some sort of punishment from the board, but didn't think it was justified.

"I hope North Carolina doesn't embarrass itself if it wants to make an example of me, because before long they'll see that this was a big mistake," said Jemsek.

Jemsek, who practices near Charlotte, treated 2,000 people for Lyme disease from across the country. Ten patients accused him of misdiagnosing them and treating them with powerful drugs that they say made them sick. One of those patients died.

"I've helped hundreds, if not thousands of people and I'm sorry," said Jemsek. "I'm very sorry that a few people in that group are unhappy or feel that I've deceived them, because I haven't done that intentionally."

On Wednesday, tearful patients testified that Jemsek's aggressive, long-term use of powerful intravenous antibiotics almost killed them. One man testified that he thinks Jemsek's negligence resulted in his wife's death. Other doctors testified that Jemsek's methods were reckless and not in line with the normal medical protocol for diagnosing and treating Lyme disease.

Finding themselves in front of the North Carolina Medical Board is not a place a physician wants to be. The board has the power to suspend or permanently revoke a doctor's license. That's something that Jemsek's supporters say would halt progress in the area of treating this illness.

Rachel Stone firmly believes Dr. Jemsek's treatment cured her son Matt, who is now 22 but was diagnosed with Lyme disease at 16. She has kept vigil outside the hearing with dozens of other supporters.

"I am very biased in support of him, because I love him. He gave my son a life," said Stone.

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