DO YOU TRUST DOCTORS TO ASSIST PATIENTS SUICIDES?
One of the hot-button political issues of the day is physician-assisted euthanasia. Which ever side of the issue people support, the real question is: do we trust medical doctors to make honest decisions about performing the ultimate medical treatment -- death?
In the latest case of physician misconduct and criminality, two medical doctors were charged with multiple counts of health care fraud for allegedly performing unnecessary surgeries on patients who were compensated with money or other benefits.
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted the two doctors, as well as the entire Bel Air Surgical Institute, on conspiracy and health care fraud charges for allegedly submitting fraudulent bills to numerous private insurance companies and for allegedly providing false patient records to support those fraudulent bills.
On October 12, Dr. William W. Hampton surrendered to special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hampton, 50, of Cypress, is scheduled to make his first court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
Dr. Mamdouh S. Bahna, the owner of the Bel Air Surgical Institute, had been scheduled to surrender, but he failed to appear at the designated time. Bahna, 51, of Los Angeles, is considered to be a fugitive who is currently being sought by federal authorities.
The 17-count indictment outlines a scheme in which Bahna allegedly hired "marketers" who oversaw the recruitment of people who had private health insurance and were willing to undergo unnecessary surgical procedures in exchange for cash or discounted cosmetic surgery procedures. The procedures performed by the doctors at the Bel Air Surgical Institute included Esophagogastroduodenscopy (EGD), colonoscopy, sinus surgeries, laparoscopy and thoracic sympathectomy, which is commonly called "sweaty palm surgery." According to the indictment, those willing to undergo the unneeded procedures were promised $300 for EGDs and colonoscopies and up to $1,200 for sweaty palm surgery.
Patients were instructed by recruiters to describe false and exaggerated symptoms which were used to create medical charts used to make the surgical procedures appear to be justified. In some cases, patients were allegedly brought in from Texas and other states to undergo unneeded invasive procedures.
The indictment accuses the defendants of conspiracy and nine counts of health care fraud. Bahna and the Bel Air Surgery Institute are additionally charged with five counts of health care fraud, while Hampton faces another two health care fraud charges of his own.
The indictment alleges that Bahna hired marketers -- including Huynhhoa Thi Bui, 53, of Garden Grove -- to bring patients into Bel Air Surgery Center. Bahna allegedly instructed Bui to set up a corporation so he could make payments to Bui without raising suspicion.
Bui had pleaded guilty on September 12 in US district court, admitting that she worked with doctors, recruiters and patients to cause unnecessary procedures to be performed. Bui was paid up to $4,500 to deliver patients willing to undergo sweaty palm surgery.
Previously in this investigation, Carlos Farias, 34, of Fontana, pleaded guilty to four counts of health care fraud. During the court hearing on September 19, Farias admitted that he acted as a recruiter for doctors and outpatient surgery centers that offered medically unnecessary surgeries and surgical procedures and fraudulently billed private insurers.
Two other people have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles on charges related to their alleged roles as recruiters.
Danny O. Valle, 25, who formerly lived in Los Angeles and currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, is charged with seven counts of health care fraud. The indictment accuses Valle of causing insurance companies to be billed no less than $920,175 for unnecessary procedures. Valle has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and he is scheduled to go on trial November 15.
Another defendant -- Jon C. English, 34, a fugitive who formerly resided in Rialto -- is charged with 12 counts of health care fraud. The indictment alleges that English recruited patients and caused more than $1.1 million in fraudulent claims to be submitted to insurance companies.
This case illustrates that rather than being interested in the health and well-being of patients, too often, physicians have been found to be predisposed to make healthcare decisions based on self-interest and greed. Are these the people whom we should trust to perform doctor-assisted suicides? And who will oversee their procedures of death?
© 2005 Jim Kouri- All
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Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.
He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores.
Patients were instructed by recruiters to describe false and exaggerated symptoms which were used to create medical charts used to make the surgical procedures appear to be justified.