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California surgeon faces accusation that could cost his license

A California orthopedic surgeon may be stripped of his medical license due to the accusation he lied about a patient's treatment.

According to the complaint before the state medical board, the doctor saw a woman in 2012 for a long-standing knee problem related to an old work injury. He did not include any documentation in her chart that he preformed a complete physical exam on her knee -- a requirement for payment under the workers' comp system. He also did not include any record that he ordered X-rays or reviewed the X-rays taken by another doctor.

However, that isn't what he put in his invoice and reported to the insurance company footing the bill. In his report, he indicated that he'd done all of those things.

Then, after doing surgery on the patient, he never documented any conversations with the woman regarding her options for rehab care or treatment. Nor did he order more X-rays to review her progress. He also performed a manual manipulation of her knee while she was sedated -- but never got the patient's informed consent for the procedure.

Despite her ongoing pain, the doctor also failed to discuss treatment options with the woman or look further into her complaints.

All of these things amount to some rather serious ethical and legal charges. Falsifying documents to the insurer, for example, is serious enough -- that alone is an act of fraud. Even if the doctor is merely guilty of bad record keeping, that won't protect his license. Poor record keeping is a severe form of misconduct in the medical profession because patients -- and other doctors -- rely on the accuracy of those records.

In addition, failing to address the patient's pain is deeply unprofessional and negligent. So is failing to give the patient an adequate understanding of all her options for treatment -- which is essential for true informed consent.

While it's hard to say for certain, the doctor may have been surprised that a case over half a decade old is coming back to haunt him; however, other doctors should take note. It's increasingly common for old medical records and bills to face scrutiny as insurers seek to limit costs and root out corruption from within. More doctors in the future may find themselves having to explain poor record-keeping and defend their professional licenses in the process.

Source: OC Weekly, "Surf City Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Rick F. Pospisil Faces Medical License Accusation," Matt Coker, March 26, 2018

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