A doctor who was the private physician to Diana, Princess of Wales, and identified her body after she was killed in Paris is being sued for negligence following the death of a top City banker.
Dr Peter Wheeler, who has also treated celebrities including Nigella Lawson and the actor Anthony Andrews, along with the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Kent, is facing a damages claim of £300,000 in connection with the death of Stefanos Vavalidis, a leading figure in European banking.
Mr Vavalidis’s widow, Barbara, claims that her husband’s death from liver failure at the age of 69 was caused by the negligent prescription of a drug by Dr Wheeler.
She is now suing the doctor in the High Court, claiming negligence and breach of contract over Mr Vavalidis’s death last year. The court will hear that Mr Vavalidis “suffered gravely”.
Dr Wheeler – who works from a private practice – prescribed Mr Vavalidis with cancer drug methotrexate between May 2003 and 2015 to treat the skin condition psoriasis.
But, according to a writ lodged with the High Court, the drug damaged the banker’s liver and over the years his health worsened, until he found stairs difficult, needing a ramp for his family’s holiday home in Greece.
His condition deteriorated so much that at one stage Mr Vavalidis wanted to move from their four-storey townhouse in Chelsea to a flat with a lift. Mrs Vavalidis, who is being represented by Leigh Day, says her husband would became breathless when walking, probably because of lung fibrosis.
His health continued to decline, and on a family holiday in May 2015, a local doctor said his immune system was shutting down.
Mr Vavalidis, who was a director at the National Bank of Greece, was admitted to hospital after suffering severe liver failure.
As his condition worsened he was flown to University College Hospital in London, where he died on January 21, 2016 from cirrhosis of the liver, with pneumonia and renal infection.
According to his widow’s claim, methotrexate toxicity was to blame.
Mrs Vavalidis accuses Dr Wheeler of failing to ensure her husband was properly monitored for his long-term use of methotrexate.
It is alleged that when tests showed low platelets in his blood, Dr Wheeler failed to inquire into the abnormal results, and failed to stop prescribing the drug.
The writ also maintains that if Dr Wheeler had prescribed Mr Vavalidis with folic acid supplements prescribed by a previous doctor, the likelihood of liver or lung problems would have been reduced.
The writ alleges that Dr Wheeler “knew, or ought to have known, that methotrexate is a high-risk drug with potentially serious side effects that can be fatal if it is not used correctly”.
Mrs Vavalidis, who is seeking damages for herself and sons Alexander, 32, and Philip, 27, argues that her husband would still be alive if he had stopped taking methotrexate.
Dr Wheeler, a partner at the Sloane Street Surgery, in Knightsbridge, west London, did not respond to requests for a comment but is understood to be preparing to deny and contest Mrs Vavalidis’s allegations.