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Wrongdoing in the medical realm: serious consequences for doctors

Among all business realms, a select few unquestionably seem to be the targets of comparatively intense government scrutiny -- local, state and federal -- when it comes to regulatory and compliance issues.

Our readers might quickly name a few, with it likely being the case that the aeronautics industry and financial securities sphere likely come to mind, respectively. Regulation is also quite heavy in the environmental area.

And then there is the medical industry, which is arguably unparalleled for the hoops and hurdles surrounding health care exactions. On a daily basis, doctors, nurses, facility administrators, billers, device makers, drug manufacturers and other actors must work with reams of rules, guidelines and mandates that, if not satisfactorily responded to, can bring personal peril.

Licenses can be lost when a regulation isn't followed. Careers can be derailed. And people can go to prison.

One physician relating her personal tale in a recent media piece can readily attest to the downsides. She is awaiting sentencing by a federal judge for accepting money deemed to be a bribe for referring patients to one particular diagnostics laboratory. A number of other doctors were also convicted in the matter.

The doctor says that she knew she was engaging in tax evasion by accepting cash payments that she did not report to tax authorities. However, she also states that she was -- as she contends many other doctors currently are -- woefully ignorant regarding the precise parameters of money-related practices within the medical industry. She says she had no idea that referring patients could be construed as a criminal act.

"We [doctors] have not been prepared for the business of medicine," she says.

The doctor faces a maximum prison term of five years, coupled with the potential for a $250,000 fine.

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