How is This Doctor Accused of False MS Diagnoses Still Practicing Medicine?
By Josh Mur
The fact that the general population is unfit to properly diagnose serious illnesses and identify certain injuries makes the trust between the doctor and patient virtually sacred. Today, over 12,000 different diseases, deformities, and injuries have been identified ─ giving people good reason to want to trust their doctors. Though a great deal of practitioners can be trustworthy, it is always wise to ask questions during checkups, for the untrustworthy are still capable of becoming doctors.
Dr. Sean Orr is the former head of neurology for Baptist Health and one of the doctors accused of violating that sacred trust on multiple occasions. In 2013, Dr. Orr’s license was suspended for a year after he faced allegations of sexual misconduct with one of his patients from 2011. Dr. Orr used his position of authority to trick his patient into having sexual relations with him, even claiming that the relationship would benefit her health.
The next year, Baptist Health ─ a chain of hospitals and care offices based in Jacksonville, Florida ─ faced a lawsuit after a whistleblower reported that the organization had been overfunded by the Medicare program through false claims made by Dr. Orr, supported by misdiagnosis and mistreatment. They eventually paid a $2.5million settlement to the U.S. government while Orr agreed to pay $150,000.
Now, several patients have come forward with a different issue, accusing Dr. Orr of misdiagnosing them withMS. One of them is Amber Taylor, who claims her regular doctor referred her to Dr. Orr for her chronic migraines. After only a couple months, Dr. Orr diagnosed Taylor with MS. According to Taylor,
“One day I actually remember him saying, ‘You need to come to terms with the fact that this is what you have.’ I just had no reason to not believe what he said.”
Taylor went on to quit her job, spend $50,000 on renovations to adjust to life in a wheelchair, and spend $5,000a month for Copaxone injections that ended up inducing negative side effects. It turned out that Taylor did not have MS. According to NBC News, other former patients reported that Dr. Orr claimed he could diagnose MS by looking into a person’s eyes. Some patients ended up on medication that cost tens of thousands of dollars ─others even contemplated suicide.
Here’s the kicker: he’s still in business in Panama City, Florida. Dr. Sean Orr, the man accused of the reprehensible actions described above, is still making money from unsuspecting patients. Though Dr. Orr avoids the media ─ using patient confidentiality as his defense ─ in a statement issued on July 16th, he said,
“As a physician, I am, and have always been, a believer in the proactive treatment of people with illness and disease.[…] Neurological disorders, including Multiple Sclerosis are highly complex, and the science is evolving rapidly. Even with the evolution of technology, understanding the science and the disease continue to be intricate […] Differences of opinion and approaches to treatment with diagnosis happen with these evolving sciences. […] I sought to be proactive and use neurological innovations where they were safe and available.”
Essentially, Dr. Sean Orr justifies his misdiagnoses and mistreatment of his patients with the fact that the science behind neurological disorders is constantly evolving. So is this a case of “differing opinions,” or simply a case of fraudulent medical practice? Let’s look at the facts.
According to Lee Bentley, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Dr. Orr was collecting a salary that reached up to $600,000 from Baptist Health, depending on how many patients he treated. In addition to this salary, Dr. Orr was also the top prescriber of Acthar, a gel used for relieving MS symptoms. He collected around$250,000 from pharmaceutical companies for distributing high-priced drugs. Dr. Orr is now being investigated by the U.S. Attorney for billing fraud.
Is that a difference of opinion or a conflict of interest?
We saw a case similar to this in Michigan earlier this year, when Dr. Farid Fata was accused of prescribing chemotherapy not only to patients who did not have cancer, but to patients with terminal cancer, using the treatment solely to generate revenue from people he saw as essentially already dead. District Attorney BarbaraMcQuaid called this case “most serious case of fraud in U.S. history.” Patients suffered from nerve damage, loss of hair and teeth, damage to the immune system, and more.
As a people, it is crucial that we come to recognize people in uniforms as just that: people in uniforms, not demigods. While there are those out to do good for others, human nature still exists within them, meaning that every police officer, doctor, soldier, and politician is very much capable of injustice and, dare it be said, evil ─ just as the rest of us are. Is the idea here to never trust anybody in a uniform? Absolutely not. But it is important to ask questions. It is far more difficult to take advantage of people willing to pay attention than clueless underlings with blind faith.
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