Mariah Martinez was 9 years of ages when she got bad news about her persistent headaches: A physician stated she had epilepsy.
Over the next four years, the rural Detroit girl took anti-seizure medicine that made her feel slow and was sometimes connected to a machine that tape-recorded her brain waves. She was informed to prevent activities that would rouse her heart, making her the target of teasing by other kids at school.
However then a different doctor delivered astonishing news in 2007: Mariah didn’t have epilepsy.
” How could that be?” her mom, Laura Abdel-Slater, remembered. “Epilepsy is something that’s not curable.”
Martinez, now 26, is the very first of what could be lots of previous patients to go to trial accusing Dr. Yasser Awaad and his previous employer, Oakwood Healthcare, of malpractice and carelessness. Jury choice starts Monday.
Awaad ordered tests on numerous Detroit-area children and deliberately misread the outcomes, informing them they had epilepsy or some other seizure condition, say legal representatives for Martinez. The medical diagnoses interrupted their lives, forcing them to take medications they didn’t need and to go through additional tests during repeat visits.
The lawyers declare that Oakwood was running an “EEG mill,” a recommendation to an electroencephalogram, a test to determine brain activity. The Dearborn medical center was “thrilled with Dr. Awaad’s suspiciously high efficiency because all it appreciated was generating income,” they argue in a current court filing.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes seizures, which are short modifications in normal brain activity. Medication is a common treatment, however nerve stimulation through an implanted device sometimes is another choice. More than 3 million individuals in the U.S., or 1.2%of the population, have active epilepsy, according to the U.S. Centers for Illness Control and Prevention.
Awaad was Oakwood’s first pediatric neurologist when he was hired in1999 Over almost a years, his annual income rose from $185,000 to $300,000 He also got approved for a perk as high as $220,000 if certain billing targets were met, files reveal.
Awaad left Oakwood in 2007 for a task in Saudi Arabia. When his former clients went to new physicians, numerous diagnoses were reversed. Even other doctors consulted by defense attorney stated he misinterpreted EEG tests.
” If I made an error, I developed a diagnosis to the very best of my ability,” Awaad told lawyer Brian McKeen during a quarrelsome deposition in2017 “That’s a various story than deliberately telling them that you have epilepsy and they don’t have epilepsy.”
Oakwood combined into Beaumont Health in 2014, years after the first claim was submitted.
” While we can not comment on the specifics of this case due to the fact that of pending legal proceedings and client privacy laws, it continues to be our position that patients were dealt with properly,” Beaumont spokesman Mark Geary said.
In 2012, Awaad struck a deal with state regulators to settle claims that he unnecessarily gave anti-seizure medications to 4 kids. He paid a $10,000 fine and agreed to have his work reviewed by another physician for a period of time.
Attorneys representing about 300 previous clients lost their bid to make this case a class-action claim, so the first trial will center only on Martinez, who was sent out to Awaad in 2003 over her headaches. She was given Lamictal, an anti-seizure medicine, and Awaad carried out lots of follow-up EEGs up until another physician stated she didn’t have epilepsy.
Martinez’s lawyers declined to make her readily available for an interview before trial. But in a deposition, she remembered being withdrawn as a child and teased by other kids since the epilepsy label restricted her physical activities. She stated her grades suffered.
” As soon as I was weaned off medication, my headaches became less regular, less serious,” stated Martinez.
Attorneys for Oakwood asked the judge to offer the medical center a different trial, however he declined.
” You can’t simply take a look at the malpractice and rule out whether Oakwood ought to have and might have stopped what was occurring,” stated Wayne County Judge Robert Colombo Jr., who last fall called some evidence “very damning.”
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