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Will your MD kill you? How fraud is affecting patients!

Will your MD kill you?

It seems like a bizarre story that only a sick mind could come up with. However, the reality is much crueler than your imagination. How is fraud affecting patients? It is much more common than most people think that the friendly and trusted MD that you see has actually never studied medicine, at least not at any university. It is one thing if your car mechanic is a proactive self-learner who experimented with a sufficient number of cars and has a decent chance of fixing yours … but would you put your life into the hands of someone who just googled for a potential treatment?

Not all cases of fraud are discovered, but the few who are paint a gruesome picture of unscrupulous people who literally walk over dead people to become rich.

How fraud is affecting patients

Some of the most visible case in recent years have been:

  1. A ‘fake’ doctor who killed four patients in Germany (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50264089). This person worked for 2 years as an anesthesiologist in a hospital in Fritzlar, Hesse, before he was discovered. However, four patients had to die to uncover the truth.
  2. A ‘dermatologist’ without any medical license who killed a patient in New York in 2003. (https://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/nyregion/17mbrfs-001.html)
  3. A 26-year-old  ‘emergency doctor’ who never studied medicine and killed a 63-year-old patient. (https://www.bild.de/news/2010/behandelt-herzinfarkt-patient-tot-11471248.bild.html)
  4. For several years did an unlicensed ‘doctor’ in Germany perform surgery, before he was discovered and fired. (https://www.stuttgarter-zeitung.de/inhalt.jahrelang-in-der-chirurgie-gearbeitet-falscher-arzt-am-op-tisch.95c2c3b9-bc0f-4449-b767-7dbd89c5313b.html)
  5. In Zurich, a person with 2 ‘fake’ doctor titles did not only work as an MD between 2006 and 2013 but was promoted to a leading position in the hospital in 2009. Working for 4 years as one of the leading MDs he was only discovered in 2013. (https://www.20min.ch/schweiz/zuerich/story/Leitender-Uni-Arzt-mit-falschen-Doktortiteln-14848080)
  6. A ‘doctor’ who studied medicine in Iran but was told by German authorities that he was not allowed the work as MD, was fined 15.000 Euros last year and is also investigated due to the death of one of his patients. (https://www.wz.de/nrw/duesseldorf/falscher-doktortitel-schoenheitschirurg-zu-geldstrafe-verurteilt_aid-44713677)

These are just some of the cases that were discovered, in many cases after several patients died. Falsification of certificates, titles and documents seem to be much more common than most people think. There are no trusted numbers on how many ‘fake’ MDs are still out there, negatively affecting those who have devoted their lives to studying medicine and helping people. 

Should you blindly trust?

It is not just the patients who might never know if their condition could not be treated or if their ‘fake’ MD just googled for the solution. It is the honest and hard-working MDs who see the good name of their field and their institution negatively affected.

In most cases, though, patients and medical institutions have a choice, although it comes with a cost. Most countries do have some kind of centralized system that allows for the verification and validation of titles, like MDs. These verification services are not cheap (50-250USD) and take some time. Most of us do either not have the time, nor do we want to spend the money. It is time for medical institutions and universities to look for new and agile ways that reinstate patients’ trust in them and in the MDs that work there to save people’s lives. 

As patients, we are part of the healthcare system and should not blindly trust. How fraud is affecting patients should be of our utmost interest. Medical facilities should also very carefully screen their MDs and other medical personnel, reciprocating the trust patients put into them. MDs should critically analyze their colleagues’ performance and not blindly trust in their titles.