On June 24, 2013, an Indiana judge approved a $55 million medical malpractice settlement involving 282 former patients of the self-proclaimed “Nose Doc.” The former Indiana surgeon allegedly performed unnecessary or fraudulent surgeries on patients so that he could bill insurance companies for the procedures. The surgeon’s local infamy spread to the international scene when he was arrested in 2009 on an Italian mountainside where he had been living in a tent. He had gone into hiding while vacationing in Greece with his family shortly after his former patients began filing medical malpractice lawsuits against him in 2004.
The surgeon had allegedly earned in excess of $30 million before he disappeared in 2004. He was convicted of fraud after his five-year international journey to avoid prosecution. In late 2012, a federal judge sentenced the surgeon to seven years imprisonment after the surgeon had pleaded guilty to health care fraud.
The $55 million settlement had to be approved by a judge because the settlement will be paid by the Indiana Patients Compensation Fund (“Fund”). It is expected that most of the individual medical malpractice plaintiffs will receive nearly $250,000 in compensation from the Fund (Indiana medical malpractice law provides that the first $250,000 of medical malpractice claim payments is paid by the medical malpractice insurance company for the negligent physician (or the physician himself if there is no medical malpractice coverage) and an additional $1 million is available from the Fund to resolve individual medical malpractice claims, for a total limit in the amount of $1,250,000 for individual medical malpractice claims in Indiana).
The Fund is administered by the Indiana State Insurance Commission. The Fund’s funds are provided by fees charged to Indiana physicians and other Indiana health care providers; Indiana does not fund the Fund but only administers the Fund.
The surgeon’s medical malpractice insurance company had filed a lawsuit seeking to avoid having to pay any of the medical malpractice claims against the surgeon, which lawsuit is still pending.
It is these egregious medical malpractice cases that involve multiple medical malpractice victims and numerous serious harms caused by a single physician or other health care provider over a period of time that angers and bewilders us. How could one physician who markets his practice and likes the limelight avoid detection for such a long period of time during which many unsuspecting patients are victimized and traumatized? Where were this surgeon’s peers and medical oversight when the first signs of medical negligence and fraud first arose? Why did it take the State of Indiana and federal authorities so long to get involved, before more patients were harmed? Why did the medical board in Indiana not investigate and take action against this medical miscreant?
The Fund’s expenditure of $55 million to settle the claims against a single wayward physician in Indiana should be a painful and motivating wake-up call for medical providers in Indiana and throughout the United States that they need to monitor, timely investigate, and appropriately discipline their own in order to protect their own financial interests and also to protect the public-at-large from medical malpractice and health care fraud.
If you have been injured or suffered other harms as a result of medical malpractice in Indiana or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with an Indiana medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may be willing to investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and file a medical malpractice case on your behalf, if appropriate.
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