Nassau University Medical Center Allows Physician’s Assistant to Hold Himself Out as a Doctor for Years – Fails to Diagnose Patient with Cancer
As a medical malpractice lawyer, I understand the trust involved in the relationship between doctor and patient – and the way it can be broken. While many doctors are consummate professionals who respect the trust in the relationship at all time, there are always some who use it to take advantage of those in their care. This is perhaps most evident in the case where medical personnel lie about their background and their employer, a major hospital on Long Island, is complicit in the fraud.
CBS New York recently covered a story that goes to the heart of this issue.
A lawsuit was filed on Long Island accuses a physician’s assistant of running an illegal medical practice for years.
The physician’s assistant, John Mitchner, was a “beloved” member of the medical community in Roosevelt, New York. But it was all a lie. The lawsuit alleges he has been “pretending” to have a medical degree from Stony Brook since 1995.
He even has websites and advertisements representing himself as a doctor. He has been seeing patients and giving medical advice on his own at the Roosevelt clinic affiliated with the Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC), despite the fact that as a physician’s assistant he has to be supervised by an actual doctor at all times. The plaintiff in this case, Nevely Plummer, claims that he had been seeing Mr. Mitchner since 2003 and was lead to believe he was a doctor. Mr. Plummer took blood tests regularly to determine if he had prostate cancer, and was told by Mr. Mitchner that a blood test is all that’s needed. Mr. Plummer explicitly asked Mr. Mitchner if he needed a rectal exam to test for prostate cancer and was told that he did not. After being examined by real doctors, Mr. Plummer discovered he actually had prostate cancer. In fact, it was likely that he had the cancer for the last 10 years while under Mitchner’s care. Because of the delayed diagnoses, he had not received timely treatment and the cancer had spread to his bones. His long-term prognosis is unclear, and he continues to suffer severe pain as a result of his condition.
Cases like this one highlight the role that New York medical malpractice lawsuits play in keeping the medical profession safe and honest. Clearly Mr. Mitchner thought he could get away with holding himself out to the community as a doctor, illegally treating patients to their detriment. In fact, he actually got away with it for years. Who knows how many people were affected by his lies? Surely Mr. Plummer is not alone in being harmed by this blatant malpractice. Without this lawsuit, how long could Mr. Mitchner have continued his fraudulent practice? Who would hold him accountable for the lives he hurt?
Unfortunately, it is impossible to rely solely on the medical profession to regulate themselves in these cases. Promoting fair access to the legal system in these situations is necessary to force these issues and bring them to the public’s attention. A lawsuit can provide deserved compensation and redress for the affected patient. In addition, by ensuring punishment and the threat of appropriate monetary verdicts, the justice system serves as a reminder to medical professionals and their employers of their responsibility to perform their work honestly and with the highest standard of care.
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