A Kentucky cardiologist will spend three and a half years in prison for coercing patients into unnecessary medical treatments.
Kentucky.com reports that, on top of incarceration, Dr. Anis Chalhoub has been ordered to pay a total of $257,515 in restitution to insurance companies and taxpayer-funded healthcare programs.
U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. van Tatenhove also fined Chalhoub $50,000 for malpractice and deceit.
“You’ve engaged in conduct that has harmed out community,” van Tatenhove said.
Chalhoub’s accused of collaborating in a scheme at Saint Joseph-London Hospital. Doctors there allegedly ‘took part in performing hundreds of unnecessary hard procedures.’
WKYT writes that prosecutors said ‘Chalhoub defrauded Medicare, Medicaid and other insurers by implanting medically unnecessary pacemakers in his patients. He would then bill health insurance programs for the procedures and follow-up care.’
Federal officials involved in the investigation blasted Chalhoub for letting greed get in the way of good health care.
“This doctor violated his oath to do no harm,” Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, Officer of Inspector General in Atlanta, GA, said. “His reckless behavior has earned him jail time for surgically implanting pacemakers that patients did not need in order to fatten his pockets.”
Chalhoub allegedly told some patients that they might die if they didn’t receive pacemakers. He was convicted of fraud in April.
Even with a conviction and the harsh claims stacked against him, Chalhoub’s attorneys say members of the community have described the cardiologist as a competent and conscientious caretaker.
“Despite how the offense has been portrayed, Dr. Chalhoub has devoted his life to his family and helping those in need,” they said.
One of Chalhoub’s attorneys said a 10-month sentence would be sufficient, considering the doctor would lose his medical license a consequence of the conviction.
But Kentucky.com recounts how prosecutors argued that Chalhoub should spend years behind bars, in large part because the sorts of invasive procedures he recommended could have had serious consequences in the case of physician error or infection.
Unnecessary pacemakers, said two assistant U.S. attorneys, “will adversely impact these patients’ lives as they age and may compromise their ability to seek certain medical treatments in the future.”
One of Chalhoub’s former patients—a long-time coal miner named Mark Meadows—told the judge that an unneeded treatment led to the end of 30 years of marriage.
“it’s a dirty, low-down, rotten shame,” Meadows said.