For parents, finding out that your child has been misdiagnosed by a doctor is understandably frustrating and concerning. But imagine hundreds of parents finding out that the same doctor has misdiagnosed theirs and hundreds of other children in the same area. That is exactly what is happening in the Detroit-area as one doctor is accused of at least 200 misdiagnoses. After a long saga of medical malpractice, could Detroit-area families finally see justice?
Detroit-Area Doctor Accused of Hundreds of Misdiagnoses
Between 1997 and 2007, Dr. Yasser Awaad made more than 200 misdiagnoses while working as a pediatric neurologist at Oakwood Healthcare in Dearborn. The patients – all children – were diagnosed with epilepsy or other seizure disorders based on electroencephalograms (EEG).
However, a complaint filed by the Attorney General’s office says that the EEG’s were not performed or were improperly interpreted. The complaint also says that some patients were misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As a result, children were given medication that was unnecessary, and in some cases was harmful. All the while, their actual medical conditions was not addressed or properly diagnosed.
Awaad has not practiced medicine in Michigan since 2007, but his time in the Detroit area has left scars on many families and the healthcare system. One lawyer representing victims says he believes that Awaad was running a “gravy train” of fraud by ordering expensive EEG tests that were not necessary.
Reality of Awaad’s Misdiagnoses
What makes Awaad’s actions all the more deplorable is the fact that the victims are children. These victims endured grueling and likely terrifying tests – many of which they didn’t need. Now, parents are taking action. A lawyer who represents Awaad’s victims says,
“As a pediatric neurologist Yasser Awaad was entrusted with the health and welfare of his patients. Awaad abused that trust and victimized hundreds of children over an eight-year period by systematically misdiagnosing them with epilepsy. It is particularly appalling that he harmed so many innocent children so that he could enrich himself. It is unfathomable that he is not prison.”
Several medical malpractice claims have been filed against Awaad. Two of those claims have already found Awaad to have been negligent in his handling of patients. There are more than 250 cases still pending against him for the alleged misdiagnoses and mistreatment of patients.
Some lawsuits have already concluded with juries awarding millions of dollars in damages to victims. In one case, a child was awarded $3 million after being misdiagnosed with epilepsy. In another case, Awaad allegedly abandoned a 10-year-old patient who needed ongoing care and monitoring. Awaad left the country and did not inform the patient and his parents that he was not returning.
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Pulls License
With hundreds of lawsuits pending, Awaad reached a settlement with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in May 2020. Awaad must pay a $5,000 penalty and must surrender his medical license. According to state regulators, his license “shall not be renewed, reinstated, reissued or reactivated.” Surrendering his license allows him to forego a formal hearing before the state medical board.
This would seem to be a reasonable action given that this is not the first complaint against Awaad, or the first sanction. In 2011, Awaad paid a $10,000 penalty related to epilepsy diagnoses. For a period of time after this sanction, Awaad’s work was reviewed by another doctor but he was still allowed to practice. In 2018, a complaint was filed against Awaad with the Michigan Board of Medicine alleging he violated state health codes.
Can Doctors with Revoked Licenses Practice Medicine Elsewhere?
People in the Detroit area may breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Awaad’s license has been revoked, but what does that really mean? Does that mean that he cannot practice medicine elsewhere? Are other patients at risk?
Every state has a list of doctors who are licensed. The list usually includes information about their education, whether he or she is licensed, whether a malpractice claim has ever been filed against them and whether their license has ever been revoked or suspended in that state. Unfortunately, state listings do not always include information about whether the doctor has been sanctioned in other states.
That means that doctors like Awaad whose license is revoked in Michigan could, in theory, practice in another state without patients being aware of the sanctions related to the numerous misdiagnoses he is accused of. It is generally up to the states to follow up on licensed physicians and keep updated records. Sadly, many states do not maintain these records. Furthermore, states may not know about sanctions in other states because voluntary license surrenders are often kept secret.
In fact, in 2018, USA Today found more than 500 physicians who were sanctioned or barred from practicing in one state practicing elsewhere with a clean license and record. The investigation found another 250 physicians who had surrendered a license practicing in other states. This is especially troubling in cases like Awaad’s where a long history of medical malpractice could be easily overlooked if he practices in other states.
Such a lack of consistent oversight means that countless patients could be in harm’s way.
Are You a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you believe that you are a victim of medical malpractice, contact Brown, Christie & Green. Our legal professionals can help you understand your legal rights and any options you may have to pursue justice against a negligent healthcare provider or facility. Our Houston medical malpractice attorney helps clients with medical malpractice cases involving misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, surgical errors, birth injuries, nursing home abuse and more.
If you or someone you love is suffering due to one of these unfortunate situations, we can help. Not every medical malpractice case is as publicized as the misdiagnoses claims against Yasser Awaad. That does not mean that they are not equally as important, however. Any patient suffering due to medical malpractice deserves the opportunity to protect their rights and fight back.