Cheryl Ortel- Sued for diagnosing Lyme rather than cancer

Cheryl Ortel is an obstretician-gynecologist in Easton, MD who fell into the alternate universe of chronic lyme because she was looking for a solution to her patients’ problems. That’s a good sentiment, but unfortunately she learned about “chronic Lyme” pseudoscience from Dr. Joseph Burrascano, a rogue doctor who committed professional misconduct with respect to two patients, according to the New York State’s Administrative Review Board for Professional Medical Conduct.

Sadly, unscientific training looks like it did a disservice to her patients. The Lyme literate tend to see Lyme everywhere, to the exclusion of other possible diagnoses.

It was cancer, not Lyme disease

Helen Taylor and her husband (“Claimants”) filed a legal action against Ortel. Taylor was diagnosed with Lyme disease, but an independent test was negative. The real diagnosis was ovarian cancer. This is the relevant section of their complaint against Ortel:


5. On or about February 16, 2006, Claimants presented to the Defendants for her annual GYN examination. During the exam, she complained of night sweats and joint pain. On examination, however, it was noted by the Defendants that Claimants had abdominal pain in the left lower quadrant of her abdomen. Defendant noted that sonogram should be obtained to rule out diverticulitis, but no order or referral was given to the Claimants by the Defendants and a sonogram was never performed. A Lyme disease test was ordered, which was interpreted in March 2006 by Defendants as positive for Lyme disease, but a separate and independent test taken by Claimant’s primary care provided confirmed that the Claimants was negative for Lyme’s disease.


6. On August 19, 2006, Claimants presented to another gynecologist, Jason Evans, M.D., who noted that Claimants had complaints of LLQ abdominal pain. An examination revealed the presence of a 9cm mass in the vicinity of Claimant’s left ovary, and Dr. Evans recommended an exploratory laparoscopy with bilateral salpingo- oopherectomy. This was scheduled fort September 12, 2006, but the surgery was postponed to October 9, 2006, after Claimants suffered a transient ischemic attack just before the September surgery date. Exploratory surgery occurred on October 9, 2006, revealing an ovarian mass which was diagnosed as stage IIc epithelial ovarian cancer and it was removed.


7. As a result of the delay in diagnosing the ovarian cancer, the mass grew in size and metastasized, decreasing her chances of survival below fifty (50%). In addition, she has undergone radiation and adjuvant chemotherapy in order to control the advanced disease. Recently, she has had a reoccurrence of the cancer, requiring another course of painful adjuvant chemotherapy. Had the Defendants simply followed through with the order for the sonogram, the growing mass would have been discovered and she would have been worked up much sooner than occurred.




Claimants, Helen Taylor, adopts and incorporates by reference paragraphs one (1) through seven (7) of the Statement of Claim as if fully set forth herein and further allege as follows:


8. At all times relevant to this claim each of the Defendants and their agents, servants and/or employees failed to conform to the standards of care in their care and treatment of Claimants in that they negligently failed to perform all appropriate tests, cultures, and/or screens; negligently failed to timely and/or properly diagnose ovarian cancer; negligently failed to timely perform and/or order a sonogram; negligently monitored and/or observed claimant;
negligently failed to perform and/or timely perform proper tests, screenings, and diagnostic studies; negligently interpreted tests which were ordered; negligently failed to order, recommend and/or perform appropriate tests, studies, examinations and/or procedures to correctly and timely diagnose the Claimant’s compromised condition; negligently administered and/or failed to administer appropriate medication for the Claimants; negligently failed to immediately and aggressively diagnose and treat the Claimants; and, were further and otherwise negligent in the management, care and treatment of Claimants.


9. As a direct and proximate result of the failure of each of the Defendants as set forth above, Decedent and Claimants suffered excruciating and unremitting pain, extreme emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish and was otherwise damaged and injured.


10. That furthermore, as a direct and proximate result of the above described negligence of each of the Defendants and/or their actual and/or apparent agents, servants and/or employees, the Claimants suffered excruciating and unremitting conscious pain and suffering, incurred hospital and medical expenses, and were otherwise damaged and injured. Had these Defendants adhered to the standards of care, the Claimants would not have suffered said injuries.

We do not know the outcome of the case. Please see the full document


In 2009, a news report explained how an IgeneX test ordered by Ortel resulted in her patient Barbara White receiving three unlikely diagnoses of Lyme disease, Babesia, and Bartonella. According to the article, White was treated by Joseph Jemsek, who was disciplined by the North Carolina Medical Board for unprofessional conduct. The article said “Jemsek has placed White on two intravenous antibiotics and eight oral antibiotics. She also has to follow a certain diet.”

They expected the total cost of treatments to be $100,000.  This all sounds like appalling treatment.