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Casey Smitherman is superintendent of a small school district in the Midwest. The town, Elwood, Indiana, has 8,500 people and struggles with serious poverty. Many of its students do not have adequate resources.  

Ms. Smitherman had helped a specific student in the past, buying clothes for him and helping clean his house.  

This specific student failed to show up at school. Smitherman apparently did not want to call the state’s Department of Child Services because she was concerned the child might be placed in a foster home. She learned the child had a sore throat and she took him to an urgent care clinic. The clinic refused to treat the student because he was not her child. 

Well, the superintendent took the child to another medical facility and checked him in for evaluation using her son’s name. She was given an antibiotic prescription and filled it at a pharmacy, again using her son’s name. 

The total bill for treatment was $233.  

Smitherman was arrested for various derivatives of insurance fraud, including official misconduct and identity deception. 

To be clear, Smitherman has not tried to spin her story. She said what she did was wrong.  

She is being put into a pretrial diversion program, so if her record stays clean, the charges will be expunged from her record.  

It’s not clear to me why a representative of the school was not empowered through some type of implicit or explicit consent mechanism to provide permission for treatment. In most school districts, if there is an accident or serious illness at school, teachers or school nurses are allowed to act.  

Yes, the total charge was modest. Still, if Smitherman wanted to provide charity, she should have footed the bill herself. It is insurance fraud to misrepresent one’s identity to obtain benefits. The reason is obvious.  

There’s little doubt Smitherman wanted to help the child, just as she had done in the past. If the stumbling block is obtaining permission to treat the child, she should figure out how that might be addressed going forward. If it is the cost of care, that might be beyond her pay grade. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeffrey Segal, MD, JD

Dr. Jeffrey Segal, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Medical Justice, is a board-certified neurosurgeon. In the process of conceiving, funding, developing, and growing Medical Justice, Dr. Segal has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on medical malpractice issues, counterclaims, and internet-based assaults on reputation.

Dr. Segal received his M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, where he also completed a neurosurgical residency. Dr. Segal served as a Spinal Surgery Fellow at The University of South Florida Medical School. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa as well as the AOA Medical Honor Society. Dr. Segal received his B.A. from the University of Texas and graduated with a J.D. from Concord Law School with highest honors.

Dr. Segal is also a partner at Byrd Adatto, a national business and health care law firm. With over 50 combined years of experience in serving doctors, dentists, and other providers, Byrd Adatto has a national pedigree to address most legal issues that arise in the business and practice of medicine.

If you have a medico-legal question, write to Medical Justice at infonews@medicaljustice.com.


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