February 15, 2013

High Profile Orthopedic Surgeon Investigated for Gross Negligence After Injuries

by Levin & Perconti

A well-known doctor who has worked with many professional athletes, sports teams, and national events has come under fire for allegations of severe mistakes which caused harm to those in his care. The Aspen Daily News recently provided background on the story and explained the allegations against the medical professional. The tale is a reminder that all medical settings come with a risk of substandard care--even when the doctor is apparently at the top of his field.

State Investigation
According to the report, the doctor involved is known has been the medical director for ESPN’s X Games nearly since its inception on top of being the head team physician of NFL football’s San Diego Chargers for many years.

The state’s board of medical director recently admitted that the doctor has been under investigation for the past several months after allegations of gross negligence related to some of his medical services. Specifically, there are concerns about the standard of care provided in up to four different surgeries as well as the proper upkeep (or lack of upkeep) of medical records.

The state board officially charged the doctor with gross negligence for one hip surgery performed in 2007 as well as other misconduct. Per administrative protocols, the case now advances to a hearing--not yet scheduled--where both sides will likely be able to present information and argue their case before neutral decisionmaker. It is only then, if the doctor is found guilty of those charges, that he may face some penalty, ranging from permanent loss of medical license to probation.

Observers explain that the state board’s call for serious punishments as a result of their findings is significant. Not all who are investigated end up having the board make that recommendation. For example, according to record shared in the story, of the 185 cases of negligence brought to the state board last year, only 18 had their licenses revoked.

A healthcare academic explained, “It would appear that for this kind of action to be contemplated [license revocation], there is a basic question about safety being raised and whether the person would be able to practice in a way that would not harm patients. When you see a pattern of allegations brought against someone because they practice in a less than safe way ... it raises alarm bells.”

That pattern has likely been building against this doctor for years. Over the last fifteen years, at least 23 claims of medical malpractice have been brought against the surgeon. In the last two years alone, he lost two separate medical malpractice lawsuits, with total payouts to victims of nearly $7.5 million.

On top of all of that, the doctor has had a few problems outside of the medical setting as well. For example, in 2007 he was cited by the medical board for failing to disclose that he was convicted of driving under the influence. That is combined with ethics violations related to his upkeep of medical records--though the doctor is still fighting those claims. All told, there are very serious claims about this professional’s ability to practice safely. Patients need to be aware of those risks and regulations should only only his continued practicing if they can be sure patients are not exposed to harm.

See Other Blog Posts:

Legal Rights of Employees Who Report Fraud in Hospitals

Most Common Radiology Malpractice Suits