A lot of people must be asking that same question after reading an article posted on-line in theDetroit Free Press earlier this week – could this be true? The article details the allegations against a Dearborn, Michigan pediatric neurologist, Dr. Yasser Awaad, for deliberately mistreating and misdiagnosing children for money at the hospital where he worked, Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center. While these are currently only allegations, here is a sampling of claims taken from the article:
The lawsuit charges that Oakwood failed to properly monitor Awaad after other doctors alerted the hospital about concerns that Awaad was misdiagnosing patients. It also alleges that Oakwood never told patients and their families they needed to return for additional evaluations, once the hospital knew Awaad was under investigation.
The investigation began with concerns raised by a Michigan pediatric neurologist who found no confirmation of epilepsy when he did brain tests on Awaad’s patients.
When Benner and Savageau [attorneys for the plaintiffs] pulled brain test readings of the patients who came to them — files stored on compact discs — they found the readings to be normal, while Awaad’s records showed them to be abnormal.
According to Benner and Savageau, who ostensibly are relying on expert reviews of these brain studies, these test results demonstrate that Awaad made a misdiagnosis of epilpesy for hundreds of children that the good doctor treated. Their allegations go even further: Awaad even implanted devices into the brains of several children to control seizure disorders they didn’t have.
It makes one wonder if where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Consider Dr. Awaad’s pay structure as well as the fact that he has already been involved in a prior fraud investigation involving Medicaid, part of which is still pending:
In 2005, he was the top-paid doctor at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, receiving $600,692. Only $250,000 was in base pay; the rest of his earnings came from a contract that paid him for bringing business to the hospital.
Last September, Oakwood settled a Michigan Attorney General investigation into Medicaid fraud abuses by agreeing to pay $309,140 to Michigan’s Medicaid program, which paid for treatments of Awaad’s poorest patients. But the office closed its investigation into Awaad. “We did investigate but we didn’t find sufficient evidence to show a crime was committed,” a spokeswoman said.
A separate investigation by the Michigan Department of Community Health, which investigates charges of wrongdoing by health care providers, is pending.
The department began its review of Awaad in 2006 after a Michigan doctor reported concerns. Health care providers under investigation usually retain their licenses to practice until investigations are completed and the provider is found guilty of charges in court.
And what did Dr. Awaad do with his medical practice several months after the beginning of the investigation? He closed down his Dearborn, Michigan medical practice, packed up and moved his practice to Saudi Arabia. We can’t help but wonder if this is just because he was homesick.
Here is just one of the many tragic stories being told by parents of these children “diagnosed” with epilepsy by Dr. Awaad.
Brian and Angel Guy wanted to have other children.
But Dr. Yasser Awaad, their former Dearborn pediatric neurologist, warned against it.
“(He) told us we shouldn’t have any more kids because our other children would end up with epilepsy,” said Angel Guy, 28, of Detroit.
Awaad diagnosed Brian Guy, the couple’s now 9-year-old son, with a seizure disorder when he was 3. He was put on powerful anti-seizure medicines and ordered to get brain tests four times a year, according to his Farmington Hills attorneys.
When the medicines caused their son to have memory problems and be sleepy and weak, they took him to another Michigan doctor in 2007, who tested him and found he didn’t have epilepsy. “We were just devastated,” the dad said.
The response from the hospital:
“We have no reason to believe Dr. Awaad’s care and treatment resulted in any harm or injury during his tenure with Oakwood,” the statement said. “The diagnosis and treatment of seizure disorders for each patient is based on an individualized basis and we intend to vigorously defend any cases that may result from these claims. We are committed to providing the best care to our patients.”
What about the response from Dr. Awaad’s attorney? ”Detroit attorney Charles Fisher, who represents Awaad and Oakwood, said Monday he did not think it was appropriate to comment on a pending lawsuit.”
You may ask, if these allegations are true, how could this have gone undetected by the hospital? It turns out that Dr. Awaad was also the Director of the hospital’s pediatric neurology section. It will be interesting to find out if, as apparently was the situation in the Maryland stent scandal (placement of hundreds of unnecessary cardiac stents) involving its director of interventional cardiology, Dr. Mark Midei, if Dr. Awaad was the one in charge of which cases of medical care were subject to peer review. Is this another case of turning a blind-eye in the interest of profit?
“They completely neglected their responsibility under the law and common law to provide safety for their patients. All the time, both of them are collecting a lot of money,” said Benner.
Benner is suing Awaad and Oakwood Hospital. The state attorney general has already accused Awaad of over billing and collected more than $300,000 from Oakwood.
Of course, we may never get to know the full truth behind the story if this is quietly resolved between the parties under a confidential settlement agreement. Let’s wait and see where this one goes. We will try to follow this story and report on any substantive developments.
Contributed to and edited by: Brian Nash