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American Doctor Accused of Botch Surgery

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American Doctor Accused of Botch Surgery

Often travelers are worried about the skill of Thai doctors because they have the misconception that they are inferior to American doctor. However, several reports suggest otherwise and prove that skills of Thai surgeons are not the only ones that should be under scrutiny.

Often travelers are worried about the skill of Thai doctors because they have the misconception that they are inferior to American doctor. However, several reports suggest otherwise and prove that skills of Thai surgeons are not the only ones that should be under scrutiny.

Becky Anderson
When Becky Anderson underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery in 1999, she expected the procedure to transform her body - not disfigure her. Unfortunately 10 years later Anderson is still living with the terrible consequences of the surgeries carried out by Dr Brian West. Earlier this year in March, Anderson told the news station CW 31, in Sacramento,

“This is what I have now. My intestines covered by a skin graft.”

The surgery had left her with gaping, infected holes that wouldn’t heal, and a grotesque lump the size of a melon, protruding out of her stomach.

Anderson had several surgeries performed by Dr. West who was a certified plastic surgeon on the Board of Plastic Surgeons in Long Beach, California. It was just weeks before the final surgery was due to take place that West was arrested for a drink-driving accident.

West entered the diversion program for alcoholism to treat his addiction however this was not to be the end of his botch surgeries. A year later he performed a tummy tuck on a 37-year-old woman that also healed poorly.

West ultimately flunked out of the treatment program after investigators uncovered a pattern of relapses, binge drinking and doctored urine tests that “demonstrate that he is a physician who has been long and chronically impaired by alcohol,” according to a 2005 medical board complaint.

West supporters say that he has been made a scapegoat for his patient’s complications and that the severity of his drinking problem has been exaggerated by investigators. His attorney, Dominique Pollara stated,

“I have no information from any of my investigations that Dr. West has ever cared for patients while under the influence of alcohol,”

West pleaded not guilty to Anderson’s malpractice law suit for $250,000. Pollara said West admitted no fault for the consequences of the surgery. As a result, Becky Anderson a highly disfigured tummy-tuck patient lost her case. Reporters tried to reach Pollara for further comment, but the call was not returned.

The lawsuit has lad to criticism of the rehab programs that allow thousands of U.S. physicians to keep their addictions hidden from their patients. Nearly all states have confidential rehab programs that let doctors continue practicing as long as they stick with the treatment regimen. It is estimated that there are as many as 8,000 doctors nationwide that are enrolled in such programs.

California is currently the only state who will abolish the 27 year old rehabilitation program, a move which has outraged many physicians across the country. A review concluded that the system failed to protect patients or help addicted doctors get better.
Opponents of such confidential rehabilitation programs say the medical establishment uses confidential treatment to protect dangerous physicians.

“Patients have no way to protect themselves from these doctors,” said Julie Fellmeth, who heads the University of San Diego’s Center for Public Interest Law and led the opposition to California’s so-called diversion program.

No other state has followed California’s lead. But the president of California’s medical board, Dr. Richard Fantozzi, said that behind the scenes, regulators nationwide share his ambivalence toward such programs.

“To hide something from consumers, something so blatant … it’s unconscionable today,” Fantozzi said.

California’s program is due to end June 30 next year. If no alternative program is adopted, the rules will revert back to the zero-tolerance policy in place before 1980, when doctors who were found by the medical board to have drug or alcohol problems were immediately stripped of their licenses.

With 10 – 15 percent of physicians nationwide having a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives, this move may seem like a step in the right direction, however some say, that without the assurance of confidentiality doctors will go underground and continue to practice without getting any treatment at all.

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