Doctor Guilty of Medical Negligence
By Ran Reznick
Last Update: 15/11/2004
A Health Ministry disciplinary committee has found a local doctor who prescribed steroids for "Mr. World" guilty of serious medical negligence.
This is the first time that an Israeli doctor has been charged with medical negligence for prescribing bodybuilding drugs, and the first time the Health Ministry has officially declared that high dosages of such drugs may cause bodily harm.
Dr. Yehuda Chen gave Eli Hanna, Israel’s leading bodybuilder, six prescriptions for unusually large amounts of medications, steroids and growth hormones. Hanna, 35, has won several international bodybuilding titles including "Mr. World," "Mr. Universe" and "Mr. Europe" as well as numerous "Mr. Israel" titles.
Hanna used the prescriptions to import the drugs to Israel in 2002, but they were intercepted by customs officials at Ben-Gurion airport. Consequently, the Health Ministry launched an investigation against the doctor who issued the prescriptions.
The ministry’s disciplinary committee recently concluded, after two years of debate, that "administering steroids and growth hormones could cause the user bodily harm both in the long term and short term."
Dr. Na’ama Constantini, the director of the Center for Sport Medicine Sciences and Research at the Wingate Institute, provided the medical opinion and main testimony that led to Chen’s conviction. She told the disciplinary committee that the quantities of chemical substances that Chen prescribed for Hanna "require a permit from the district veterinarian." She added: "It’s a crime … A doctor’s job is not to make someone world champion but to heal him. A doctor must not cause his patient damage. The dosages are up to five times the customary amount for bodybuilders."
The committee presented its recommendations to Health Minister Dan Naveh, stating that Chen’s conduct was improper and constituted a breach of the accepted norms of a doctor. The drugs, which are not registered for use in Israel, were prescribed ostensibly for anemia and for asthma. In fact, Hanna did not suffer from these, and the medication was not intended to cure him, but to be used to enhance his bodybuilding qualities.
Hanna testified that he had filled in the drugs’ quantities on the forms while the doctor had only signed them. He said he had already won the world championship three times and had "ample experience in this field, more than many doctors." Hanna said he takes five prescribed pills a day and injects growth hormone three times a day.
He told Haaretz that he consults doctors and nutritionists abroad, explaining "a man who deals with bodybuilding is like a woman who wants to be a beauty queen. She will do anything to be more beautiful, and a bodybuilder will do anything to be bigger and more muscular – even if he is told the treatment may cause liver problems."
"There is no `Mr. World’ who has not used steroids. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won the title of `Mr. Universe’ five times and `Mr. Olympia’ seven times, used them all his life. If you’re using it already, it’s better to do it under a doctor’s supervision," Hanna said.
Hanna added that he does not see what the problem is with using a growth hormone "because all the rich Israelis know a senior doctor in Tel Aviv, who works in Ichilov Hospital and prescribes growth hormone as part of his anti-ageing treatments."
Chen signed the prescriptions as part of his work for the Meuhedet health maintenance organization (HMO) in Tel Aviv.
In the next few weeks the ministry’s committee is expected to determine his punishment.
Chen’s license as a senior police doctor was revoked for a year (which ended a few months ago), after he was convicted for commiting an indecent act on a female patient who came to him for slimming treatments. In another case he was rebuked for giving unusual prescriptions to drug addicts.
Chen denied all the claims against him, saying that Hanna had convinced him that the quantities he prescribed were the ones he was taking. Chen admitted that he "erred in giving the prescriptions," but said he tried to calculate the dosages on the basis of Internet data and had nothing to compare them to "since Hanna is the only one in Israel who takes such quantities of drugs."
Chen said in answer to a question that it was possible that he "felt threatened" and that he "could not turn down Hanna’s request."
The Health Ministry committee established that although "Chen found that the subject was not within his expertise, he did not refer Hanna to sports medicine experts or steroid experts, as a reasonable doctor who is not familiar with a subject brought to his treatment is expected to do."
The committee also concluded that although Chen did not fill in the details on the prescriptions, he "signed them without exercising judgement. His search into his sources was not deep or comprehensive enough."