According to a Wall Street Journal article, spinal surgeon Dr. Aria Sabit is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice, California medical board, the Food and Drug Administration, and more than two dozen medical malpractice lawsuits for allegedly performing a large volume of unnecessary spinal surgeries and developing a preference to a specific brand of spinal implants in many of his surgeries.
The lawsuits against Dr. Sabit claim that his actions as a surgeon are being influenced by his financial interests as a physician-owned distributorships, or PODs. Distributors are essentially the middle-man between hospitals and medical device companies. By marketing and stocking the devices, the distributor gains commission for each sale. When surgeons are distributors, the surgeons can easily increase their commission by advising their hospitals to buy specific devices.
In some cases, PODs can operate legally. However, in March, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General issued a special fraud alert about PODs, warning that they "pose dangers to patient safety" by inducing surgeons to do more procedures than necessary and to favor devices they profit from over more "clinically appropriate" ones.
The allegations against Dr. Sabit are a pretty clear example of this conflict of interest. Dr. Sabit owned one-fifth of a company called Apex Medical Technologies LLC that distributed spinal-implant devices, which hospital staffs indicated that Dr. Sabit switched to using more in his surgeries. It has been claimed that he received profits from Apex that averaged about $12,000 per month. This financial interest made him more prone to performing surgeries that were occasionally bigger and riskier than necessary. The result from his biased actions led to patient complications after the surgeries.
Ms. Guanda Dusette is one example out of the many victims of Dr. Sabit’s medical negligence. Ms. Dusette, a 72-year-old retired nurse, was referred to Dr. Sabit after her complaints of persistent back pain. Originally, she was due for a relatively routine procedure of removing part of two disks in her spine to take pressure off the nerve root. However, Dr. Sabit ended up using Apex implants to fuse together eight vertebral levels in her spine, a much more extensive surgery than planned. After this extensive surgery, Ms. Dusette was in agonizing pain and had to re-operate and remove all the hardware Dr. Sabit implanted.
This is just one of many types of medical negligence, putting financial interests in front of patient safety. Many patients automatically assume doctors act and recommend solely on behalf of the patient’s best interest. However, there are hospitals, HMOs and doctors who don’t and that puts patients’ lives in danger. If you suspect you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice, call us today at (202) 393-3320 to see if we can help you get answers.