Over the past year our medical malpractice lawyers have learned of various reports across the country of hospitals and physicians who have been caught engaging in deceptive practices in order maximize their own profits. At the heart of most of these cases are medical professionals who tell patients that they need procedures or operations that they actually do not need. Patients are then unwittingly and for no good reason forced to endure the risks of the medical treatment and the often substantial side-effects that they cause.
Profit is the motive in these instances. Doctors and the hospital where they work or with which they are affiliated are often compensated based on the total number of procedures that they perform. It is therefore to their financial advantage for patients to need the costliest procedures. All it takes is an unscrupulous physician and a hospital administration that looks the other way for these doctors to prioritize their pocketbooks over patient care.
This purposeful ordering of unnecessary procedures represents one of the more sickening forms of medical malpractice. Unfortunately, it is often hard to catch these patterns of intentional medical diagnosis mistake. With good reason patients trust the information provided to them by their doctors. When a doctor explains that he feels a patient needs a certain operation, it is highly likely that the patient will accept that recommendation and agree. There would then be little opportunity for others to second-guess that decision. Few physicians have their individual recommendations or diagnostic opinions systematically reviewed. Instead, this medical malpractice is usually only uncovered on those rare occasions when statistical analysis is conducted that shows a suspicious pattern of certain procedures being performed by certain physicians. When data reveals that those rates are much higher than would likely be the case, than investigators may look closer and actually discover the abuse.
For example, one of those cases was recently settled by the hospital involved. The Chicago Tribune reported last week on a facility that agreed to pay $2.8 million to settle a federal lawsuit involving unnecessary heart stent procedures. The lawsuit alleged that the facility failed to prevent a cardiologist that worked there from unnecessarily telling patients that they needed a heart stent and then performing the operations. Officials believe that there may ultimately have been dozen of victims over at least a three year stretch. In total, the physician billed both public and private insurers hundreds of thousands of dollars for the unnecessary procedures.
The abusive doctor was personally charged and convicted law month in a U.S. District Court for health care fraud. In addition, he was convicted of falsifying patient records to make it seem like they needed the operations when they did not. The doctor is expected to be sentenced in several months. He faces up to 35 years in prison for his conduct. The doctor’s trial was a criminal procedure, which accused the physician individually for violating criminal laws. Conversely, the settlement to which the hospital has agreed to repay nearly $3 million stems from a separate civil suit filed by the federal government against the facility itself.
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