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Top Ten Dangerous Doctors Are Poster Children for Patient Safety Reform

1:49 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Top Ten Dangerous DoctorsTen doctors that the California Medical Board failed to take off the streets before repeated acts of negligence and patient endangerment harmed or killed their patients make the case for reforming California’s patient safety laws, said Consumer Watchdog today.

Consumer Watchdog released a “Top Ten Dangerous Doctors” list of physicians whose negligence injured or even killed their patients.

These ten dangerous doctors are some of the most egregious overprescribers, repeat offenders, and drug and alcohol users in California. Their stories show the urgent need for action by California lawmakers to replace a Medical Board that has allowed bad doctors to continue to practice, and to raise the outdated cap on patients’ ability to hold negligent doctors accountable in court.

Last month, Consumer Watchdog joined the 38IsTooLate.org coalition to announce a patient safety ballot measure that will raise the cap on damages in medical negligence lawsuits and require physicians to check a prescription drug database before prescribing narcotics. The coalition, including Bob Pack who lost his two children to a drug addict who was overprescribed narcotics, will place the measure on the ballot if the legislature fails to enact patient safety reform legislation this year.

The “Top Ten Dangerous Doctors” who make the case for patient safety reform include:

  • Dr. Van Vu and Dr. Carlos Estiandan, identified as over-prescribers in a Los Angeles Times investigation and who together had at least 25 patients die from prescription drug overdoses. Neither has lost their medical license.
  • Dr. Aria Omar Sabit and Dr. Israel Chambi, neurosurgeons who together have had at least 55 medical malpractice lawsuits filed against them. Chambi continues to practice despite 10 malpractice settlements and having lost his post at two medical centers. No action was taken against Sabit after he moved his practice out of state.
  • Dr. Craig Alan Bittner, Dr. Efrain Gonzalez (and his wife Dr. Yessennia Candelaria), all physicians who practiced cosmetic surgery with no formal training. The three had their licenses suspended or revoked by the Medical Board only after arrests had taken place and at least 21 of their patients were severely disfigured.
  • Dr. Brian West and Dr. Daryl Westerback were each arrested twice for driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. West did not lose his license until nine years after the first complaint against him and being arrested for drunk driving on the way to treat a patient. Westerback, who is accused of treating patients while under the influence, lost his license to prescribe but continues to practice.
  • Dr. Andrew Rutland had his license revoked a decade ago after the deaths of two infants and 15 malpractice claims, but was reinstated five years later. Rutland lost his license again in 2011 after being found responsible for another patient death.
  • Dr. Shane Sheibani, a plastic surgeon who left dozens of patients disfigured, had his license suspended in 2009 but continued to practice and harm patients for three more years before his license was finally revoked.

Reforms being considered in “The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act” include:

  • Raising or repealing the cap on damages in medical malpractice cases.
  • Mandatory drug and alcohol testing for doctors.
  • Full funding of the CURES database and mandatory use by physicians before prescribing narcotics.
  • Medical Board reform including a public member majority, increased transparency of complaints and transferring investigative powers to the Department of Justice.

Top Ten Dangerous Doctors

Top 10 Dangerous Doctors

Dr. Aria Omar Sabit

Neurosurgeon. Twenty lawsuits were filed against Sabit stemming from the 17 months he practiced in Ventura County, alleging misplaced screws in spinal fusions, post-op infections and botched brain surgery. Victims say Sabit made so many mistakes in such a short period of time that Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura and Ventura County Neurosurgical Associates Medical Group should have intervened long before the medical group fired him in December 2010. Attorneys for those patients have dubbed Sabit “The Butcher.” Community Memorial officials said they asked the Medical Board of California to investigate. In February 2012 Medical Board representatives would not comment on the possibility of an investigation involving Sabit, but told a reporter no action had been taken against him since he was licensed to practice in California in 2009. Sabit is now practicing in Michigan.

Dr. Van Vu

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Political Response Required To Respond To CA Physician Drug Abuse Scandal

5:53 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

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Leading consumer advocates today called upon the legislature to hold hearings and investigate strong new laws in response to recent Los Angeles Times reports on widespread drug overdoses due to physician overprescribing and the recent case of a convicted methamphetamine-using drug-dealing doctor who will be treating patients again within a year.
 
Consumer Watchdog asked the Governor and legislative leaders in a letter to consider random drug testing of physicians. The advocates, who have already qualified one initiative measure for the next ballot to regulate health insurance rates, said that voters would not tolerate legislative inaction.

Click here to read the full letter.

The recent Los Angeles Times series, which uncovered 71 physicians whose prescriptions have led to three or more deaths, and the decision Friday by the state medical board to allow Dr. Nathan Kuemmerle to treat patients again after pleading guilty to felony drug dealing, prompted Consumer Watchdog to call for hearings and legislative action.

“The recent investigation and past decades of experience show that patients are not safe from drug using and drug dealing doctors,” wrote Consumer Watchdog’s Jamie Court and Carmen Balber. “One in ten physicians develop problems with drugs or alcohol over the course of their careers, yet continue to practice medicine. These physicians hold the lives of patients in their hands every day.”


“Pilots must undergo mandatory random drug testing because they hold the lives of so many passengers in their hands. Physicians who operate on patients and are in a position to overprescribe or use narcotics themselves should undergo similar mandatory random drug tests,” wrote the advocates. “Patients should not have to fear being treated or operated on by addicted physicians. Unfortunately, there is little deterrence to such malfeasance, as evidenced by the medical board’s restoration of Nathan Kuemmerle’s medical license.”

The letter also urged the Governor and lawmakers to consider moving authority for oversight and prosecution of over-prescribing to the pharmacy board, as is already the case in many states, to data mine information in the state’s prescription drug database to identify problematic prescribing patterns, and to strengthen the doctor disciplinary system and preventive measures to protect patients before they are harmed.

“Prescription drug abuse by physicians is something the public will not tolerate without a remedy that’s reasonable and effective. Though any action to detect and discipline dangerous doctors will undoubtedly bring protestations from the medical establishment, the small minority of physicians that overprescribe and use drugs need to be dealt with quickly and effectively to ensure the safety of California patients. Now is the time to act,” wrote the advocates. “An overhaul of the Medical Board is four decades overdue and necessary to protect patients.”