Enticed by big bucks and relatively little oversight, some Hawaii doctors might betray their Hippocratic oath to “treat the ill to the best of one’s ability.” Kickbacks, over-medicating, over-billing, prescription abuse and other malfeasances can constitute medical fraud. The laws in place help protect whistleblowers who catch and report medical fraud.
Sounding the alarm to save lives
The role of insiders has been instrumental in bringing hidden crimes to light. Furthermore, whistleblowing in the medical field could arguably save lives. In a case against a South Dakota neurosurgeon, several doctors came forward with information that the surgeon was performing unnecessary spinal surgeries with a device he invented. One surgery gone awry left a patient partially paralyzed. It was a dangerous but lucrative practice that raked in millions for the doctor.
The doctor was convicted of receiving kickbacks for using devices from three companies: Medical Designs, Aegis and medical device giant Medtronic. Although Medtronic settled a suit with the government to the tune of $9.2 million, it denied any wrongdoing. Company reps claim that Medtronic did not attempt to persuade the doctor to use its SynchroMed II implantable intrathecal pumps during his spinal surgeries.
No medicine can undo the damage
While the surgeon’s alleged corruption was good for his wallet, it arguably cost him in ways from which he cannot fully recover. Though he maintained his innocence, he settled with the DOJ for $4.4 million, lost his job with the Sanford Health hospital, received a six-year ban from participating in all government payer programs and lost the trust of his colleagues.
Whistleblowing was responsible for bringing this case to the forefront. The surgeon’s colleagues were courageous when making a decision to protect the public from one of their own, and the health care profession is safer because of it. Whistleblowing will always have its place in shutting down fraud, so individuals who fear retaliation may want to ask an attorney for legal assistance.