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After criminal case, doctor faces civil lawsuits

North Carolina residents may be interested in a case that involves health care fraud in New York. A Poughkeepsie orthopedic surgeon pleaded guilty to health care fraud and was sentenced in federal court to 54 months in prison, fined $250,000 and ordered to pay restitution of $5 million for false insurance charges. According to federal prosecutors, the physician provided information that was false over a period of five years. His medical practice billed more than $35 million and he was paid $7.5 million. According to the doctor, he started falsifying claims two years after he joined the practice due to what he described as greed and insecurity.

For his former patients, it is about more than money. While some feel the doctor was not sentenced adequately, others mention the alleged physical damage his operations caused. A postal worker who is now unemployed said her life has been significantly impacted by unwarranted knee surgeries. According to her, the last surgery was grossly mishandled, forcing her to file for disability. Government records indicate the doctor performed thousands of surgeries over the period 2007 to 2011 and saw approximately 60 patients per day while operating on about 20 patients daily.

In addition to the criminal case regarding fraud, there have been more than 260 civil cases filed against the doctor, his medical practice and the hospitals where he performed the surgeries concerning medical malpractice allegations. A stay had been placed until the physician's federal case reached conclusion to allow the defendant to avoid self-incrimination. A Putnam County court lifted that order, and the civil cases are now allowed to proceed.

A physician has an obligation to care for patients while doing no harm. When a physician abandons this duty of care and someone is injured as a result of medical malpractice, the physician may be liable for the financial losses experienced by the person.

Source: ABC News, "Judgment Day for Surgeon Who Admitted to Fake Surgeries", Liz Neporent , March 07, 2014

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