Arkansas veterans hospital doctor charged in deaths of three patients

Arkansas veterans hospital doctor charged in deaths of three patients
© Greg Nash

Federal authorities in Arkansas on Tuesday charged a former Department of Veterans Affairs pathologist with involuntary manslaughter after he allegedly misdiagnosed three patients who later died and altered their records to conceal his error.

Duane Kees, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, said Dr. Robert Morris Levy had been charged in the patients’ deaths as well as on multiple charges of fraud and false statements for the alterations to records, which were intended to mask both the mistakes and his substance abuse.

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"In doing so, he was allowed to stay employed with the [Department of Veterans Affairs], thus earning a salary, benefits and possibly a bonus," Kees said in a news conference Tuesday, according to CBS News.

Prosecutors allege that one patient died of prostate cancer after Levy assessed from a biopsy that he was cancer free, while a second and third died of squamous cell carcinoma and small cell carcinoma, respectively, after Levy misdiagnosed them.

The Justice Department also alleges Levy falsified medical records to make it appear a second pathologist agreed with him in two cases, according to CBS.

“The arrest of Dr. Levy was accomplished as a result of the strong leadership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the extensive work of special agents of the VA Office of Inspector General, supported by the medical expertise of the OIG’s healthcare inspection professionals,” Michael Missal, inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said in a statement.

“These charges send a clear signal that anyone entrusted with the care of veterans will be held accountable for placing them at risk by working while impaired or through other misconduct. Our thoughts are with the veterans and their families affected by Dr. Levy’s actions,” he added.