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Unnecessary procedures may be basis for medical malpractice suits

When a doctor tells you that you need heart surgery, you may look at him or her with disbelief. Even if you've been having symptoms, it will take some time for that news to sink in. But what if you later discovered that the surgery was unnecessary?

An Ohio cardiologist was recently convicted of performing dozens of unnecessary procedures from stress tests to coronary artery bypass surgeries. His decision to subject his patients to those treatments was motivated by money. He billed Medicare and private insurers $7.2 million for the procedures, resulting in profits of $1.7 million for the doctor.

In his private practice, he not only performed unnecessary nuclear stress tests but also reported false results of the tests to convince his patients that they needed cardiac catheterization procedures. He performed other unnecessary procedures including stent insertions, angiograms, and aortograms from 2006 to 2012. He also took inpatients from a hospital where he had privileges to his office to perform tests so he could bill for them instead of the hospital.

The doctor's defense team argued that the tests and other procedures were conducted based on his discretion as a physician. The prosecution said that, while doctors can make mistakes, these decisions were based on intentional wrongdoing for the purpose of profit. The doctor was also charged with money laundering for transferring funds to his wife's bank account during the investigation.

Several malpractice suits have already been filed against the doctor based upon his unethical practices. But the type of evidence required in a criminal prosecution and a civil suit for medical malpractice are very different. Even with his criminal conviction, each individual case of unnecessary tests and procedures must be judged on its own merits according to Ohio law. An attorney who handles medical malpractice cases in Ohio can help you determine whether the facts of your case, in this one or others, rise to the level of negligence required to recover compensation for your injuries.

Source: Becker's Hospital Review, "Ohio physician convicted of performing unnecessary heart procedures," Ayla Ellison, Sept. 28, 2015

Secondary Source: Cleveland.com, "Westlake cardiologist guilty of performing unnecessary procedures for insurance payouts," Eric Heisig, Sept. 25, 2015

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