Doctor enters plea in manslaughter case

? A Topeka physician has pleaded no-contest to a charge of reckless involuntary manslaughter for the death of a woman he was treating for Lyme disease using an unauthorized method.

Dr. John Toth, 58, also agreed to surrender his medical license for seriously injuring a second patient using the same method.

Toth initially was charged with reckless second-degree murder for the death of Beverly A. Wunder, 47, of Topeka, and reckless aggravated battery for his treatment of Bertha “Susie” Groves. But prosecutors dropped the battery charge because Groves did not want Toth prosecuted in her case, and because the doctor agreed to give up his medical license.

“I’m glad that his license has been surrendered and he’s not going to be practicing medicine again,” Linda Wolfe, Wunder’s sister, said outside court on Wednesday.

Toth treated Wunder and Groves, both Lyme disease patients, by giving them intravenous infusions of a “heavy metal” known as bismuth, which has not been approved for such a use.

Wunder died a year and two days after collapsing in Toth’s office on April 18, 2005, after receiving at least a second infusion of bismuth.

Groves, who had to be hospitalized in serious condition with kidney failure after receiving a similar treatment, said overall Toth’s treatment was beneficial and substantially improved her health.

“I knew that there could be extremely serious, adverse effects up to and including death as a result of the treatment, and I chose of my own free will to accept the possible adverse effects when I authorized Dr. Toth to perform the intravenous bismuth procedure on me,” Groves wrote in an affidavit.

Groves said that if her case had gone to court, she was prepared to testify on the doctor’s behalf.

Toth is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 2. Deputy District Attorney David Debenham and defense attorney Mark Bennett have recommended that Toth be placed on supervised probation for three years.

“I’m glad he won’t be able to do this to anyone else,” said Melanie Bezner, Wunder’s daughter.

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved bismuth, an ingredient in such over-the-counter stomach remedies as Pepto-Bismol, for intravenous use.