Saturday, May 23, 2020

Overdiagnosis 2

A Detroit-area doctor accused of misdiagnosing epilepsy in more than 200 children surrendered his medical license and agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty under a settlement accepted Wednesday by state regulators.

"A great day for patients that was long overdue," said attorney Brian McKeen, who has won two trials so far over Dr. Yasser Awaad’s treatment of children.

A disciplinary panel at the Michigan Board of Medicine accepted the agreement during a meeting held by video conference. There was no immediate response from Awaad’s attorney to a request for comment.

The attorney general's office filed a complaint against Awaad in 2018, years after he treated children as a pediatric neurologist at Oakwood Healthcare in Dearborn, which is now part of Beaumont Health.

"Between 1997 and 2007, (Awaad) misdiagnosed approximately 250 patients as suffering from epilepsy or seizure disorders, based on electroencephalograms that were either not performed or not interpreted properly," the complaint said. "Some of these patients were also misdiagnosed as having attention deficit disorder or other autistic spectrum conditions."

Children were given medication that was unnecessary and sometimes harmful, the complaint said, and their actual conditions weren't addressed. 

Awaad agreed with regulators that the allegations could be treated as true to resolve the complaint. He said he has not actively practiced medicine in Michigan since 2007.

McKeen represents dozens of patients who have accused Awaad of malpractice. During one trial last year, he said the doctor was running a "gravy train of fraud" by repeatedly ordering expensive EEG tests.

Awaad’s attorney told jurors that it was "outrageous and preposterous" to claim Awaad intentionally harmed Mariah Martinez when she was 9 years old. Harry Sherbrook said there was more to diagnosing epilepsy than reading EEGs.

The jury awarded more than $3 million to Martinez, although a judge reduced it to $846,000 because of state caps on malpractice claims. 

In a second case in October, a jury awarded nearly $2.8 million to a former Awaad patient. That verdict will likely be reduced, too.

Awaad's agreement to give up his medical license was not his first encounter with regulators. A similar complaint over his epilepsy diagnoses was filed in 2011. He paid a $10,000 fine and agreed to have his work reviewed by another doctor for a period.

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