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Judge: Doctor succumbed to basest of motives, money

There are a number of positions in our culture granted exalted status. Doctoring is one of them. These professionals spend years in training and undergo rigorous licensing procedures so that we can have confidence when we put our lives in their hands. When they don't live up to the high standards that are expected, people often suffer personal injury, or possibly death.

The case of a doctor out of Salisbury is perhaps an example. Dr. John Mclean was recently sentenced to eight years in federal prison. He was found guilty of doing unnecessary implantations of coronary stents in dozens of people and then billing insurers for the procedures.

Stents are the small mesh tubes that surgeons place in a heart to keep arteries open. The possible overuse of stenting has become a focus of review in recent years. This follows accusations that some doctors have unnecessarily implanted the devices in hundreds of people. There are perhaps six or seven physicians around the country facing civil suits for overusing stents, McLean is only the second to be looking at prison time for such a case.

The accusations against McLean were that he performed unnecessary procedures between 2003 and 2007. Prosecutors said he was driven by a desire to be the preeminent cardiologist at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury. He also allegedly made hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for unnecessary follow-up tests. He was convicted this summer of health care fraud and of making false statements.

During his trial, several patients testified about the health problems they have suffered as a result of unnecessary stent procedures. One man nearly died from the effects of taking blood thinners. A woman said she suffered a heart attack during the operation.

At his sentencing, McLean said he never meant to hurt anyone. The judge, while recognizing the good the doctor has done over the course of his career said, "I conclude, sadly, that this was a crime of greed."

McLean's sentence calls for him to spend 97 months in prison, return $579,000 earned from his scheme and pay that same amount in restitution to any insurance companies he billed illegally. He's expected to appeal.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Salisbury stent doctor sentenced to federal prison," Tricia Bishop, Nov. 10, 2011

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