Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital have been accused of keeping patients sedated unnecessarily while they operated on other patients. A former anesthesiologist at the hospital came forward with information that at least five doctors put patients’ lives in danger by double-booking their surgeries. The doctors defrauded the government by billing Medicare for time they spent in operating rooms, when they actually left the critical work to trainees.
What is a Whistleblower?
The False Claims Act (FCA) gives regular people – like this anesthesiologist – a platform to expose dishonest companies that are stealing from taxpayers. Whistleblowers are the people who stand up for what’s right and give authorities the information they need to serve justice.
When a person or company defrauds government programs (like Medicare, Medicaid, or any military branch), they are actually stealing from taxpayers, because our tax dollars fund these programs. The FCA protects our tax dollars by exposing fraud, and whistleblowers are a critical part of this system.
The FCA, also called the “Informer’s Act,” both protects and rewards whistleblowers. The law protects whistleblowers by ensuring they can’t be fired or retaliated against, and rewards them by giving them 15 to 30% of the money recovered by the government in a lawsuit.
Fraud at Massachusetts General Hospital
The anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital recently blew the whistle after repeatedly seeing surgeons perform simultaneous operations. The hospital rewarded doctors when they performed more surgeries, so they double-booked patients to fit in as many as they could.
It is incredibly dangerous and unnecessary to keep patients unconscious under anesthesia for long periods of time, and some doctors sedated patients for over an hour longer than they had to.
The problem with overbooking is that patients are left unconscious and under anesthetics for longer than is necessary or safe, while surgeons take care of other patients.
A hospital spokesperson stated that there is no proof that patients have ever gotten hurt because of overbooking.
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Is Double-Booking Surgeries Illegal?
The American College of Surgeons’ 2016 surgery guidelines say that overlapping surgeries is inappropriate, except in very specific circumstances. Under these circumstances, the patient must be told that their surgery will overlap with another one, and the overlap must not interfere with the timely flow of either operation.
All in all, patients should know exactly who will be taking care of them during their surgeries before they begin and they should know they will be in good hands the whole time. Unless it’s an absolute must, surgeons should not overbook surgeries because if unexpected circumstances come up during one surgery, they may be forced to pick between the two patients, which violates the patients’ rights.
If you know of a situation in which the government is being cheated by a business, you may have a whistleblower case. It’s important to first speak with an attorney about a potential whistleblower case before telling anyone else about it. Telling others first may take away your right to the claim.
Contact the experienced whistleblower attorneys at Pintas and Mullins Law Firm for a free legal consultation. We represent clients in all 50 states and are able to speak with you 24/7, 365 days a year.