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7 Biggest Medical Scandals in Recent Years

7 Biggest Medical Scandals in Recent Years


You would think a profession bound by the ethical rule of "do no harm" would be pretty much immune to scandals. Sadly, this is not the case. The medical profession is rife with scandals in recent years that would make any patient cringe in horror. Newspapers scream the dreadful headlines of surgeries gone wrong, medications with awful side effects, and unsanitary conditions. While these are uncomfortable things to contend with, patients should be aware of them. Only then can we learn to carefully screen the doctors and surgeons whom we entrust with our lives. In this article, we'll run down 7 of the biggest medical scandals making the rounds lately.

1) Reused Syringes in Nevada

We've all grown up with the horror stories of sharing or reusing syringes. Doing so can lead to contamination of the bloodstream, the spread of deadly disease, infections, and more. Accordingly, doctors are required by law to dispose of syringes after they are used. However, it seems that not every medical facility is abiding by this requirement. The result is patients unknowingly allowing used needles to enter their flesh and veins containing God knows what. An article called "Nevada's Medial Scandal" tells one such horrifying story:

The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada reusing syringes on infected patients and contaminated vials of medicine shared among patients has infected a known six people with hepatitis C. 40,000 of those patients may also be at risk of hepatitis and HIV. That is just in Las Vegas. What about Reno, Carson City and the other towns throughout the state.


2) The Walter Reed Fiasco

In a country whose government pays farmers not to grow corn, you would think the soldiers who die for our freedom would at least get top-notch medical care. Well, the Washington Post tells a far gloomier tale. The conditions at the Army's top medical facility (Walter Reed) are so atrocious that few of us would send our friends or family there. From the Post article:

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.


3) Children with AIDS

In a tragic story out of Kazakhstan, dozens of innocent children have contracted the AIDS virus thanks to totally preventable medical errors and negligence. This scandal is particularly troubling, as AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease that the children would not have otherwise gotten. An article on this travesty gives some specific numbers, as well as the status of those children:

Sixty-one children are now known to have been infected with the AIDS virus in southern Kazakhstan as a result of medical negligence, the health ministry said. Five of them have died. "As of today we have detected 61 children infected with the HIV virus in southern Kazakhstan, of whom five have died," ministry spokesman Moris Abdulin told AFP.


4) Tainted Vaccine Research

It's getting harder and harder to know who to trust when it comes to medical research. More often than not, the conclusions being reached are published by people with a financial interest in that conclusion, not an overriding desire for the truth. This was the case in 2004, when one doctor was outed for publishing conclusions he was more or less paid to reach.

Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who champions the alleged link between measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism in young children, stands discredited for misleading his medical colleagues and The Lancet, the professional journal that published his findings.

The investigation has found that when he warned parents to avoid MMR, and published research claiming a link with autism, he did not disclose he was being funded through solicitors seeking evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers.


5) Softball and Narcotics

Back in 2003, a softball coach got the axe when it became known that she was doling out narcotics to her players. Little did the world know back then that this story was just a prelude to the widespread scandal of performance enhancing drug use in both softball and baseball. A USA Today article describes some of the events leading up to the coach's firing:

In October, state health investigators suspended the license of William Scheyer, who had been team physician for softball, after determining he improperly prescribed and dispensed large quantities of narcotics, tranquilizers and other prescription drugs to Huskies softball players in recent years.


6) Medical Company Price Fixing

Competition might be the law of the marketplace, but many big name companies conspire to fix prices anyway. Doing this allows all of the companies to profit by agreeing amongst themselves to never charge less than a certain amount. This is exactly what has been going on in the medical industry as of late, as a article explains:

The supply of medicine to public hospitals is lucrative business worth billions of rands annually. Adcock Ingram, the leading supplier of hospital products in the country, teamed up with its competitors - Dismed Criticare, Thusanong Health Care and Fresenius Kabi South Africa - to rig government tenders worth hundreds of millions of rands.


7) Medical School Kickbacks

One of the most outrageous practices in medicine is when an institution gives advice based on money and not on health, such as prescribing a certain drug because the manufacturer pays you a kickback. A similar case unfolded in 2006 at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. It turns out that the school has been paying kickbacks to doctors in exchange for the doctors agreeing to refer heart patients to the school. A New York Times article offers further insights into the details of the scandal:

A report issued last week by the monitor, Herbert J. Stern, a former federal judge and United States attorney, charged that 18 cardiologists had taken part in the illegal kickback scheme and had defrauded Medicare and Medicaid of $36 million. The report also accused the university's interim president, Bruce C. Vladeck, whom Gov. Jon S. Corzine appointed in the spring, of covering up the misconduct.


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