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Florida doctor may have license revoked for misdiagnosis cover-up

There has been yet another unusual twist in the case of a Florida doctor who admitted to falsifying patient records to cover up his misdiagnosis. The Florida Department of Health indicates that it plans to appeal a decision by the state Board of Medicine regarding his medical license.

The doctor was charged by the DOH with five counts of professional misconduct last October. He was suspended in June by the state Board of Medicine and was also fined $30,000. The board initially followed the recommendation of an administrative judge and revoked the doctor’s license. However, within minutes, the members reversed their decision and reduced the penalty to the suspension and fine.

The case involved the 2010 death of an 81-year-old woman from pancreatic cancer that the doctor failed to diagnose. The 70-year-old physician admitted to altering the patient’s records because of his “fear of a lawsuit at the end of my career.”

The woman died just two weeks after her doctor told her about the large malignant tumor. That tumor, however, was first visible in a CT scan done over two years earlier after the patient complained of abdominal and pelvic pain. Although she visited the medical office multiple times after the scan was done, the doctor did not note the mass in her records, take any action or refer her to a specialist.

DOH officials say that the agency plans to appeal the board’s final ruling. It’s unusual for the DOH to appeal a ruling by the medical board because the two work together closely. The appeal, which will be heard by a Florida district appeals court, is good news to the victim’s son who filed the initial complaint with the DOH. He says he hopes that the doctor’s license will be revoked so that he will be prevented “from doing the same thing he did to my mother to other vulnerable, elderly patients.” It was not reported whether he is filing a medical malpractice suit.

As patients, we like to hear that there is no serious condition behind our aches and pains. Therefore, many people don’t ask questions if nothing is found. However, if pain or other symptoms continue, it is always best to pursue the matter with your doctor or another one. Whether due to negligence, lack of experience or other reasons, doctors sometimes fail to correctly diagnose conditions — sometimes with dire results.

Source: The Florida Herald, “State seeks harsher penalty against Florida physician” Daniel Chang, Aug. 22, 2014

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