In April, our blog highlighted the failure of the state of Illinois to check the National Practitioner Database (NPDB) in 2017 for ANY prior lawsuits or disciplinary action of a physician applying for a license to practice medicine. Illinois was one of 13 states in the country that didn’t use the database to query a physicians’ background a single time that year.
The news was troubling then, but is bringing up renewed feelings of mistrust and worry after information was released in a November 30th article through a collaborative investigation between the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today, a website dedicated to providing education and news to physicians. The investigation found that over 250 physicians who had lost their medical license in one state are now practicing in another.
Doctor Leaves Trail of Injured Patients, Now Practicing in Cincinnati
The article centered around one physician in particular, perhaps because it highlights exactly how easy it is for physicians to simply change their address to avoid giving up a career for which they may not be qualified.
In May 2009, Dr. Larry Isaacs was a practicing surgeon at a hospital in Valencia, California. A female patient came in with abdominal pain and Dr. Isaacs determined that the patient, only known as G.G., had appendicitis and scheduled surgery to remove her appendix. During the procedure, he removed one of her fallopian tubes, failing to realize that not only was he not removing her appendix, but that G.G. did not even have one. She was discharged 4 days later but returned nearly a year later, again with abdominal pain. CT scans showed two hernias, one in her stomach and another in her pelvic region. Again, Dr. Isaacs performed a botched operation, this time using the wrong size surgical mesh to repair the hernias. Several days later, CT scans showed two other hernias, including one that involved her small intestine. Dr. Isaacs operated again, removing part of G.G.’s small intestine, but allegedly leaving part of it unconnected. G.G. developed an infection and required further surgery. This time, another physician was assigned to her case.
G.G. sued Dr. Isaacs and settled the case out of court for $310,000. Dr. Isaacs told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel & MedPage Today that he didn’t want to spend the money paying attorneys to defend him. G.G. was Hispanic and he believes that the jury would have likely included several Hispanic jurors, thus making the trial unfair. In 2016, Dr. Isaacs agreed to surrender his California state medical board license. At this point he had already been gone for 4 years, having moved to Louisiana to practice medicine from 2012-2013, and then on to New York, where he had held a medical license since the mid-1980s.
Dr. Isaacs left Louisiana for New York in 2013 after the LA medical board determined that he had conducted a botched surgery in which he removed a healthy kidney from a patient during a procedure to fix the colon. In the face of sanctions, he surrendered his Louisiana license.
After the New York board notified him that they were investigating allegations against him, he surrendered his New York license and moved once more, this time to Cincinnati. Isaacs had an expired Ohio medical license and applied to have it reinstated in order to practice in the state. He is now currently working for Tri State Urgent Care in Oakley, a well-populated area of Cincinnati. He says he is not performing surgeries and now 64 years old, would like to finish his career there, in peace.
With each of the allegations against him (there are more not detailed in this post, please click here for the full MedPage/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article), Dr. Isaacs has pointed to not wanting to pay the cost to defend himself. This excuse seems flimsy, given that his alternative has been to pick up and move his family at least 4 times since 2012.
Trust Your Instincts If You Suspect Malpractice or Medical Errors
The larger issue here, however, is how a physician that has allegedly harmed so many patients in several states is allowed to just pick up and move and continue caring for unknowing patients. It raises questions as to why states, especially our own, aren’t more diligent about tracking physicians through the only database that actually contains all the necessary information about past acts of medical negligence. If they’re not checking these databases, then who is protecting patients? Are the hospitals and medical clinics and practices checking these physicians? It seems unlikely given that just this one physician, Dr. Isaacs, was able to move and practice until he either confessed to past disciplinary action or committed another act of alleged medical negligence and was sanctioned.
It also makes us wonder why there isn’t a national disciplinary board that oversees physician licenses and requires any state issuing or renewing a license to run a license background search, as well as whomever the employer is that gives a job to a doctor. Failure to run these checks should require a heavy penalty. The cost to state licensing boards or employers to run a search in the NPDB, the national database, is around $2. The cost to not run a search and allow a doctor with a history of malpractice to care for patients could cost someone their life.
If you suspect or are sure of a medical error, misdiagnosis, or other form of malpractice, the medical malpractice attorneys of Chicago’s Levin & Perconti want to help you. Consultations with our attorneys are FREE and confidential. Even if you’re unsure about filing a lawsuit, we can help determine if you have a case. We have recovered over half a billion dollars for our clients, including multiple record-setting verdicts and settlements.
Contact us toll-free at 877-374-1417, in Chicago at (312) 332-2872 or by completing our online case evaluation form.