An Anchorage dentist was convicted on multiple criminal counts, including Medicaid fraud and failing to abide by the medical standard of care.
Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton said the state presented an “overwhelming” amount of evidence during a five-week trial.
According to prosecutors, Dr. Seth Lookhart performed a number of unlawful acts. That included sedating a patient and extracting a tooth while he rode a Hoverboard.
He then sent the video to several people, declaring that he had established “a new standard of care.”
The patient said she did not consent to being filmed and it was “unprofessional” and “crazy” to perform the procedure in that way.
Through his attorney, Dr. Lookhart apologized to the patient, who did not know about the video until investigators reached out to her.
The court also convicted Dr. Lookhart of Medicaid fraud.
Judge Wolverton was incensed that Dr. Lookhart “believed that he could get away with his fraud indefinitely, and that he believed his scheme was foolproof.”
The financial and medical malpractice evidence “was often supported, and often in excruciating detail, by Lookhart’s own texts, photos and videos,” the judge added.
Standard of Care in Medical Negligence Claims
When they are behind the wheel, most drivers have a duty of reasonable care.
They must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road.
Furthermore, the same standard of care usually applies to all drivers. It does not matter if they have been on the road for ten days or ten years.
Doctors have a fiduciary duty toward their patients. That’s because of their background and training.
Furthermore, patients are completely dependent on their doctors. Some basic elements of this fiduciary duty include:
- Awareness of current best care practices,
- Maintaining a high level of professional competence,
- Effectively communicating with patients,
- Being accountable to their patients and/or to other professionals,
- Self-review and self-reflection,
- A demonstrable track record of successful care, and
- Completing continuing education requirements.
This duty also includes a responsibility to disregard everything else and focus solely on what is best for the patient. Making money and enhancing one’s reputation are secondary to patient care.
Generally, all doctors must adhere to the same standard of care. It does not matter how long they have been in practice.
Medical misdiagnosis is a good illustration.
Typically, doctors misdiagnose their patients because they do not listen to them. Additionally, many doctors do not perform a full array of diagnostic tests.
Finally, some doctors are so busy that they rarely, if ever, consult with colleagues about diagnosis and treatment issues.
The standard of care also involves patient expectations.
Patients have the right to expect that their doctors will listen to them, discover the problem, and propose effective solutions.
Similarly, people who go to dentists expect that their dentists will have their feet on the floor.
The victim/plaintiff must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the proof.
Sometimes, the law establishes the standard of care.
If the tortfeasor (negligent actor) violated a standard of care law, and that violation substantially caused injury, the tortfeasor might be liable for damages as a matter of law.
Non-safety violations, such as Medicaid violations, are in a grey area. Such infractions are certainly unbecoming of a doctor, but they might not establish a violation of the standard of care.
In the absence of criminal charges, victim/plaintiffs must normally use expert testimony to establish the standard of care.
That expert could be another doctor or someone familiar with medical/legal issues.
As mentioned, the standard of care is usually the same for all doctors in all situations. There may be some minor variations in some cases.
The standard of care in a remote upstate hospital might not be exactly the same as the standard of care in New York City.
This expert usually also testifies that the defendant’s care fell below this standard. In other words, the doctor breached his/her fiduciary duty toward the patient.
Judges must approve expert witnesses before they testify.
New York courts use the Frye standard to evaluate experts.
This standard, which is also known as the general acceptance standard, is a bit more lenient than the measurements used in other states.
So, when it comes to establishing the standard of care and negligence, victim/plaintiffs in the Empire State usually have more options.
Doctors have a very high duty of care, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. Home and hospital visits are available.