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Doctors Ask: Is a Charting Error a Federal Crime?

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new-logo25By Author-Contributor Jane M.  Orient, M.D., http://www.drjaneorient.com/credentials.php


 As  cardiovascular surgeon John Natale, M.D., sits in federal prison, the Seventh  Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago heard his appeal on April 18. The  implications of the case are profound, the judge noted: Any error in any medical  record related to a health program could be a federal crime.


As cardiovascular surgeon John  Natale, M.D., sits in federal prison, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in  Chicago heard his appeal on April 18.

After a seven-year  investigation, Dr. Natale was indicted for Medicare fraud. Unlike the majority  of federal defendants, who feel compelled to cave in by signing a plea bargain  even when innocent, Dr. Natale courageously exercised his constitutional right  to have a public trial. That is in itself considered an “obstruction of justice”  by our government. The conviction rate is more than 95 percent, and sentences censored doct may be much longer than those meted out to “cooperative”  defendants.

The jury found Dr. Natale  not guilty on all of the fraud charges. But he was convicted on two  counts of making “false statements” in his operative reports. Over his  objection, prejudicial diagrams were sent to the jury room, supposedly  representing the operation described in the operative report as well as the  operation that was actually done. As anyone can see, a Y-shaped graft (mentioned  in the operative report) is different from a tube-shaped graft (placed in the  patient, by the doctor’s own admission). The government had thereby emphasized a  false statement by Defendant. More

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