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Medical Fraud: Surgeon Literally “Fakes” Operations

Some stories of chronic malpractice are almost too shocking to believe. That description fits the case of one surgeon (now “former” surgeon) who faces lawsuits from an eye-popping 250 former patients for a variety of claims. The plaintiffs in those case allege that the doctor botched their surgeries, performed work that was unnecessary and, in some cases, literally faked the procedure–pretending to work while actually doing nothing.

World’s Worst Orthopedic Surgeon?
According to a helpful report from Yahoo News, the doctor in question was an orthopedic surgeon who worked for several years at a medical clinic. His 250 acts of malpractice allegedly took place over a period of years, from 2007 to 2011. As is common in these medical arrangements, the doctor was employed by a medical clinic but actually performed many operations at a local hospital.

The allegations are comprehensive. In general, those working on the case claim that the doctor used patients “like human cash registers.” instead of making decisions in the best interest of the patient, the doctor apparently made choices in an effort to increase his bottom line. Amazingly, the doctor apparently scheduled up to 22 surgeries a day! Beside being nearly physically impossible, it is far askew of traditional practices in the field, where orthopedic surgeons often average around 30 operations a month.

Several of the medical malpractice claims against the doctor include wrongful death charges, filed on behalf of patients who died because of his misconduct. For example, as discussed in one ABC News story on the situation, a patient died from a pulmonary embolism less than 24 hours after a surgery. The doctor apparently failed to identify risk factors that led to the embolism. In addition, an autopsy performed on the patient revealed that, contrary to medical records, the doctors did not actually perform the surgery. Instead, the woman was put under anesthesia, cut open, and then closed back up with any work being done.

Amazingly these “fake” or “phantom” operations are actually not as uncommon as some might suspect. It remains very difficult to detect when doctors do not perform the work they claim to have performed. It is often only in unique situations, like when a patient dies and an autopsy is performed, that the situation is brought to light.

Problems with the doctor’s care were first uncovered in 2011, when he was fired from his position at the clinic. However, it wasn’t until recently that his license was finally surrendered. The loss of license was required following demands by the state’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct. The doctor responded to the request by admitting that he “failed to render appropriate care, didn’t maintain accurate medical records” on top of submitting billing requests to which he was not entitled.

Potential Criminal Charges
In addition to the civil lawsuits and the professional standards investigations, the doctor also faces potential criminal charges from federal officials. Most instances of medical malpractice are only “civil” charges stemming from unintentional mistakes which cause patient harm. It is only in rare cases like this one, where medical professionals intentionally act recklessly, that state and federal prosecutors may get involved and pursue criminal charges.

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