In September 2021, a New Mexico medical malpractice wrongful death jury awarded the plaintiff $2.3 million, including $1 million in punitive damages for wanton misconduct by the defendant oncologist, for the defendant allegedly using “woefully lower doses” of chemotherapy drugs than recommended, extending the recommended period of chemotherapy from six months to fourteen months, and failing to adequately monitor the the decedent’s condition during treatment.
The New Mexico medical malpractice wrongful death jury had awarded $2.9 million but that amount was reduced to $2.3 million when judgment was entered due to the jury’s determination that the decedent was 30% responsible for his injuries.
Trial testimony showed that the decedent had surgery in August 2015 to remove a tumor in his colon before it had spread. The decedent’s colon cancer was staged as IIIB, which has a five-year survival rate of approximately 69%. The defendant oncologist argued that the decedent’s colon cancer was Stage IV, which was not supported by the medical records, which would have meant that the five-year survival rate was less than 10%.
The plaintiff argued that the defendant oncologist extended the chemotherapy treatments for his own financial benefit: he was required to reimburse the federal government $1.3 million because he had reportedly billed Medicare and Medicaid for the cost of FDA-approved drugs while using less expensive non-FDA drugs during an 18-month period ending in August 2012. A U.S. District Court judge had placed the Syria-born defendant on three years probation in August 2015, but seven months later he requested and was granted early release from probation because his efforts to become a U.S. citizen were being limited due to his probation status (he recently became a U.S. citizen).
The New Mexico Medical Board issued a formal reprimand to the defendant in May 2015 after holding a hearing on the use of misbranded drugs. A hearing officer reportedly wrote that the defendant oncologist “unquestionably subjected his patients to dangers associated with the use of non-FDA approved medication” but nonetheless stated “there is a real risk of harm to the Deming community if (he) is unable to practice medicine. The evidence offered at the hearing shows that Deming is an underserved community and the patients who need oncology services have expressed a concern that they will have to travel several hours from home in order to obtain the necessary treatment of their conditions.”
The New Mexico Medical Board reportedly stated in its decision that Luna County, New Mexico, in which Deming is the biggest city, has been chronically underserved by medical personnel for years (Luna County ranks higher than the state average in deaths due to cancer and heart disease). Medicare and Medicaid Services officials reportedly asked in September 2020 that the defendant oncologist be allowed to provide internal medicine services for Medicare patients in Catron and Hildalgo counties for the “duration of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 public health emergency declared by the federal government in January 2020.”
If you or a loved one may have been injured as a result of medical malpractice in New Mexico, you should promptly find a New Mexico medical malpractice lawyer who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a New Mexico medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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