Ore. Doctors Fined for Failing to Disclose Payments from Implant Firm

September 8, 2013

State and federal agents are pouring through the books, looking for new and more elaborate ways to fine physicians. Here's a recent example from Oregon.

What is the point of medical malpractice tort reform, if the government is simply going to replace the danger of financial ruin with newerand more creative ways to fine doctors for conduct having nothing to do with patient outcomes?

If you believe the headlines published in a recent story by The Oregonian, "Doctors who get paid by makers of artificial implants for using their product must let patients know about it, according to a first-of-its-kind legal action by the Oregon Department of Justice."

The actual story then begins to back away from the scandalous headline, "Two Salem doctors, Matthew Fedor and Kyong Turk, agreed to pay $25,000 each to settle [an Oregon] DOJ civil case concerning pacemakers, defibrillators and related devices. DOJ continues to investigate Biotronik, Inc., the German device-maker with U.S. headquarters in Lake Oswego."

Read a little further and we arrive at the truth: "The doctors, who both performed surgeries at Salem Hospital, were part of a Biotronik program to train and certify sales representatives to assist other doctors in programming and calibrating their products." The payments weren’t for buying the product, but for teaching others how to safely implant and calibrate the devices, not for actually selecting the brand of implant. But still the doctors were fined by the Oregon DOJ. Really? Do we now need government agents supervising how training programs function?

According to Policy and Medicine, Oregon's DOJ is responsible for running the "Consumer and Prescriber Grant Program," which funds projects such as "PharmedOut" to educate healthcare professionals and consumers about the "potential" conflicts of interest or bias that may come from industry payments or support.  I will translate: The state of Oregon is providing grants which encourage the DOJ to manufacture new and unknown offenses against doctors. Out of this, the best they could come up with is the allegation that doctors didn't work for free when training people how to safely implant the devices.

The "nanny state" is a term of derision employed primarily by conservatives to describe the intrusion of government into every facet of our lives. Ordinarily, agents of the "nanny state" simply wish to tell us "what’s best for us," whether or not we ask for, or even want advice.

 In the healthcare sector however, the "nanny" doesn’t simply tell us how to behave -"nanny" wants to "get paid." "With money we will get men, said Caesar, and with men we will get money."  Thomas Jefferson wrote these words in "Notes on the State of Virginia" to warn of the concentration of power in a single governmental branch., "The time to guard against corruption and tyranny, is before they shall have gotten hold on us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered."

At some point, this all has to stop. Imposing fines against the medical profession isn’t simply a passing fad, it is a way for government agencies to create and keep jobs for themselves. This will continue until ether we will have no one left to fine, or the medical profession will simply surrender out of frustration, handing over the keys to the government.