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Pacific Hospital of Long Beach Raided; Kickback Scheme Alleged

April 22nd, 2013

Sir William Osler, M.D., a great man among the great people of Canada (sometimes known as Canadanians), is famously quoted as saying “[t]he good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”  Far be it from your humble blogger to compare the great practice of medicine with the lowly pursuit of the law, but lawyers should be held to the same standard.

It’s easy for an applicant’s attorney to review his patient’s client’s file and see dollar signs.  Sadly, some attorneys only think of ways to inflate a client’s permanent disability, there being no money in having an injured worker return to full health and full job duty.

A particularly tragic example of this has recently splashed onto the pages of the Wall Street Journal, reporting that the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California is investigating Michael D. Drobot for allegedly paying kickbacks for referrals to his surgery center (Pacific Hospital of Long Beach).  The WSJ also reports that “[f]rom 2001 to 2010 … it performed 5,138 spinal fusions on workers’ compensation patients and billed $533 million for them – three times as much as any other hospital in California.”

The story continues to report that Mr. Drobot also owns a spinal-implant distributorship, allowing him to profit from the marked-up spinal implants as well as the surgery itself.

Now, imagine, dear readers, the doctor that is influenced by Mr. Drobot’s alleged bribes to send a patient under the knife instead of into conservative care.  Imagine also, dear readers, the type of attorney who sends his or her patient to such a doctor, knowing that needless surgery is a very likely recommendation.

Of course, increased medical costs, and resulting permanent disability will inflate the workers’ “recovery”, and also the attorney’s fee.  But what about the worker?  After the extra thousands of dollars run out, how is one to return to work with a permanently scarred and damaged back?

If Mr. Drobot did, in fact, engage in bribing physicians to refer workers to his facility for spinal surgery and to use his surgical implants, this humble blogger hopes that justice is swift and equal to the crime, and that news of such consequences resonates throughout the State.  Hopefully, Mr. Drobot’s records will provide a list of physicians who accepted such payments and their licenses suffer the same fate as their victims’ spines (crippling and irrevocable damage).

Applicant’s attorneys should take note as well – it’s the ethical duty of an attorney to advise and counsel his or her client, and not sell the clients’ health for more workers’ compensation dollars.  Treat the patient, not just the disease; advise the client, not just the matter.

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