Former VA pathologist is sentenced to prison for misdiagnosing a patient who died in his care.
Robert Morris Levy, 54, of Fayetteville, a former pathologist at an Arkansas Veterans hospital has been sentenced to two decades in federal prison after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a misdiagnosed patient. Levy also pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, according to court documents, for receiving 2-methyl-2-butanol, which he used to “intoxicate himself.” In 2018, Levy was terminated from his position at Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks.
At the time of his arrest, Duane Kees, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas stated, “This indictment should remind us all that this country has a responsibility to care for those who have served us honorably. When that trust is violated through criminal conduct, those responsible must be held accountable. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”
A probe found Levy had falsely established that a patient in his care had lymphoma when there was a small-cell carcinoma present. He then falsified the patient’s medical record to state that a second pathologist agreed with this diagnosis, and the individual later passed.
Veterans Affairs officials had outside pathologists analyze roughly 34,000 cases handled by Levy over the course of his career and they discovered more than 3,000 errors dating back to 2005. Levy admitted to showing up to work drunk one time in 2016, but he denied that he had ever engaged in patient care while intoxicated. He entered an in-patient treatment program after that day and returned to work in after agreeing to remain sober. He then obtained the 2-methyl-2-butanol, which is undetectable in randomized drug testing.
“I’m angry with myself, and it just penetrates the surface of how I became this man,” he read in a statement to the court. “My plan going forward is to continue in the alcohol rehabilitation community to get the best long-term therapeutic strategy.”
“There is no more important work for our office than seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our communities in Western Arkansas,” said Acting US Attorney David Clay Fowlkes. “The victims of this case are people who gave selflessly to ensure the safety and security of the United States. They deserve the best medical care that we can provide for them. They deserve to have doctors in charge of their treatment who are dedicated and vigilant, just as these victims were in their service to our Country. Instead, this defendant’s criminal conduct in this case caused irreparable harm to the victims and their families. We are very proud to work with the dedicated VA OIG agents to achieve this conviction and sentence. While we can never repair what this defendant has broken, it is our hope that this sentence will serve as an important step towards comforting the victim’s families and striving to ensure that this criminal conduct will not occur again.”
“This sentence should send a strong message that those who abuse their positions of trust in caring for veterans will be held accountable. I thank the VA OIG special agents who worked tirelessly on this case and the US Attorney’s Office for its outstanding efforts,” said VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal. “Our thoughts are with all those harmed by Dr. Levy’s actions and we hope they find some small measure of comfort from what happened here today.”
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