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License suspension for prominent weight-loss surgeon

A Massachusetts doctor, who was once known as the king of obesity surgery in the state, had his license suspended in August 2013. The state board cited a pattern of negligence after a review that lasted several months. The doctor is denying the state's allegations and has filed an appeal. He has also enlisted a team of experts who stated that suitable care was provided for the patients in question. In addition, four prominent doctors from Harvard wrote letters of support to the board.

The 61-year-old surgeon ran thriving programs in three area hospitals where he also trained young Harvard surgeons to perform the obesity operation that was becoming increasingly popular among severely overweight patients. During his 30-year career, he performed more than 6,000 weight-loss surgeries, which breaks down to almost one every weekday.

However, behind the scenes, the State Board of Registration in Medicine was investigating the well-known surgeon, later declaring him to be a serious and immediate threat to the public. Charges by investigators cite two deaths among four patients under his care who developed post-surgery complications that went untreated in a timely manner. Eight or more patients or survivors of patients have sued the prominent surgeon on medical malpractice grounds over the last 13 years. Three or possibly more of those cases were settled, however the amounts were undisclosed.

Suspending a doctor's license is one way that medical boards help curb surgical errors. Surgeons are only human, and all their training and experience sometimes isn't quite enough to prevent injurious or even fatal errors. A medical malpractice attorney could advise families and individuals who are put in a position of having to deal with the devastating after-effects of surgical errors on their options and all of the steps to take toward receiving potential compensation.

Source: Boston Globe, "Mass. obesity surgeon’s license suspended", Liz Kowalczyk, October 27, 2013

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