When we got to a doctor for medical care, we place our lives in the doctor's hands. We trust the doctor will only order tests that are necessary and assume a doctor would never order a surgical procedure that is completely unneeded simply to increase their paycheck. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I know doctors on occasion inadvertently order treatment for a variety of reasons including an innocent misdiagnosis. The thought that a doctor, however, would intentionally order an unneeded surgical procedure is unconscionable. But that is exactly what Maryland cardiologist did according to a federal jury.
Dr. John McLean, a retired interventional cardiologist, was just convicted on six counts of insurance fraud for implanting coronary stents on patients that were not needed, ordering unneeded tests, and making false entries in those patients' records to justify the unneeded treatment. Dr. McLean surgically implanted unnecessary cardiac stents in at least 100 patients from 2003 through 2007. These procedures were performed at Peninsula Regional Medical Center, where he had staff privileges according to the U.S. Justice Department.
The placement of a coronary stent is a surgical procedure. The surgery involves placing a stent in a coronary artery that supplies blood to the heart. Although rare, complications from a coronary stent can occur. However, in some instances, complications from a coronary stent can be fatal.
In the case of then Dr. McLean, the jury found the cardiologist guilty of falsely recording the existence of coronary artery disease (or blockages) in patients' medical records in order to submit these false claim to insurers. These insurers included Medicare and Medicaid. The Justice Department also reports Dr. McLean ordered his patients to "undergo a batter of medically unnecessary follow-up tests such as stress tests, echocardiograms, and EKGs" before submitting those fraudulent claims to insurers.
Dr. McLean has yet to be sentence. However, the maximum time he could face is 10 years in prison for healthcare fraud and five years of prison on each of five counts for making false statements concerning healthcare matters. The federal jury's decision shows a doctor can never place personal greed over a patient's best interest.
MedPage, Doc Convicted In Case Involving Unneeded Stents, July 29, 2011.
Wikipedia, Coronary Stent, August 1, 2011.