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Medical Justice

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Patient Safety

Why are so many neurosurgeons in – or potentially headed to – jail?

08/22/17 4:33 PM

It’s been an active year for neurosurgeons and the criminal justice system. 

Dr. Christopher Duntsch was sentenced to life in prison for knowingly and recklessly injuring patients. Thirty two patients were involved. Two were killed. Two were paralyzed. Duntsch’s attorneys argued he was not a criminal; just a bad surgeon. Admitted into evidence was an email he sent his girlfriend…

“What I am being is what I am, one of kind, a mother f***ing stone cold killer that can buy or own or steal or ruin or build whatever he wants.” 

This probably did not help his case.

D Magazine published an extensive investigative piece called Dr. Death…The story of a madman with a scalpel. It’s a long read. Someday it will be made into a movie.  

Then we have Aria Sabit, a spinal surgeon who admitted to unnecessary and fake operations. He was sentenced to 20 years. Nearly 30 of his California patients – operated on over an 18 month stretch – later sued him for malpractice. During those 18 months he accounted for 70% of all patients unexpectedly re-admitted to his hospital following surgery. In early 2011, he moved from California to Detroit. There, he “performed” spinal fusion surgery with metal instrumentation, but subsequent diagnostic imaging revealed that he never installed the hardware, just bone dowels, and never achieved fusion. Now, that’s an oversight. 

Dr. Sabit apparently did express remorse. “I came from absolutely nothing to become a neurosurgeon and squandered the opportunity,” Dr Sabit said. “I do not deny my guilt.”  

And, finally we have Dr. James Kohut, a California neurosurgeon who was allegedly accused of 10 child molestation charges, including 6 sex acts with children under the age of 10. At his first court appearance, his attorney denied the allegations. No details were disclosed. And, who knows, a jury may ultimately find him not guilty by the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  

We’re getting close to a quorum for journal club. 

So, what do you think? Why are so many neurosurgeons in – or potentially headed to – jail?


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Posted by Medical Justice | in Patient Safety | 9 Comments »
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Jay M Levy
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Jay M Levy

As a Locum Tenens neurosurgeon, I have been covering the hospital in Minot, North Dakota off and on for 4 years. Their neurosurgeon was recently convicted of a felony (he was not on your list), has lost his license and all priviledges and will do time in a federal penitentiary. He was conscientious, a good surgeon, and seemed like a nice guy with a wife and 2 kids.However, he was on call every night at a level 2 trauma center when someone like me was not hired to take call a few nights for him. I started practice in the… Read more »

Stacey
Guest

Although not a scientific study, it has been my observation that the more complex and difficult the specialty, the more arrogant and fearless the doctor has to be. They are personality traits necessary for the risks inherent in the specialty. I could never perform a surival procedure that could render my patient paralized, or brain damaged. Unfortunately, there will always be a small percentage of individuals who have theseen traits to have them be magnified to a god complex. That, in combination with a lack of moral compass and voila, crimes, death, prison.

John Baldinger
Guest
John Baldinger

We ophthalmologists are having a banner year also. Dr Melgen MDconvicted by jury in Palm Beach for 100 million dollars of Medicare fraud and also a co-defendant in the US senator Menandez corruption trial which will start early September. And Dr Carmen Puliafito MD ,also a renowned retinal surgeon and Dean of the USC medical school who was partying with prostitutes and involved with hardline drugs. Photo of him according to the LA times wearing a tuxedo in his deans office with ecstasy pills in his hand before a fund raiser. Knew both of these guys during my retina fellowship… Read more »

s
Guest
s

A scary thought, but maybe you are asking the wrong question.

It may be that they were just caught.

Given the case last year of the New York doctor molesting women in the ER after giving them narcotics, maybe the right question should be, “How many deviant doctors are out there, regardless of specialty?”

Scott Lederhaus, MD
Guest
Scott Lederhaus, MD

It’s easy to explain. They are all psychopaths.

Todd Sisto MD FACS
Guest

One in 25 Americans is a sociopath. Sociopathy is 50% genetic and 50% of unknown etiology. There is no treatment other than close monitoring and behaviorism. They are masters at hiding in plain view. Sociopaths are attracted to the fields of sales, law enforcement, politics, law, and surgery-most especially neurosurgery. Sociopaths are UNABLE to experience normal human emotions such as Conscience, love, love’s opposite: fear, or Joy, not having fear enables them to perform unencumbered by anxiety-an actual advantage in neurosurgery, to the performance of which they are therefore better adapted. The closest experience to Joy or satisfaction is controlling… Read more »

Nelson Charlie MD
Guest
Nelson Charlie MD

Not just neurosurgeons.

I have seen the same if not worse among dermatologists.

I’d write a book but I am too busy with MACRA.

Larry Spetka
Guest
Larry Spetka

You left out the 2 spine surgeons in Milwaukee one of whom was convicted of tax evasion, the other, healthcare fraud. Sociopaths who did well in science courses I guess.

vj
Guest
vj

one might ask why one in 25 americans are sociopaths now

could it be our electronic era which decreases direct interactions with people and learning to speak and empathize with people
have we looked at how all these violent video games affect young minds in terms of being able to have empathy when bad things happen to others – there is some literature out there that these are not good influence on our youth in terms of how they develop into adult human beings