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Doctor Surrenders His Medical License Amidst Lawsuits And Regulatory Complaints of Medical Malpractice for Misdiagnosis of Epilepsy In Children

Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disease that affects more than 65 million people worldwide. The main symptom presents as recurring unprovoked seizures which can develop in people at any age. Epileptic seizures are common in young children and the elderly. The causes of epilepsy may be known in some individuals while unknown in others. When the cause is known, treatment for the disease may be more successful. The five areas of epilepsy causes are: genetic; structure; metabolic; immune-related; or infection.

Genetic epilepsy occurs when seizures are from a known or presumed inherited or acquired genetic defect or problem associated with epilepsy. Structural epilepsy is based on a distinct, physical cause in the brain that substantially increases the risk of seizures. Metabolic epilepsy causes may arise because there is disruption in how the body uses the food to make energy and affects the normal function of brain cells. When brain inflammation from protein alters the brain and causes seizures, the epilepsy has an immune causes. Medical proof of a brain infection that leads to seizures results in a diagnosis of infection epilepsy.

A doctor may diagnose a patient with epilepsy if he meets one or more of the following medical conditions:

  1. Has at least two unprovoked or reflex seizure more than 24 hours apart
  2. Has one unprovoked or reflex seizure and at least sixty percent probability of recurrence after two unprovoked seizures over the next 10 years
  3. Has diagnosis of an epilepsy syndrome

After diagnosis, many doctors begin treatment by prescribing anti-seizure medication. The dosage and length of treatment is determined on a case-by-case basis. However, side effects may occurs from taking the medication and range from mild (fatigue, dizziness, weight gain) to severe (depression, suicidal thoughts, inflammation of certain organs). Side effects in very young children taking anti-seizure medication can have significant emotional toll on them.

The Center for Disease Control (CD) reports that nearly 500,000 children in the United States have epilepsy. With such a serious diagnosis, parents believe in the education, training, and experience of their doctors and cooperate with their treatment plans. However, situations may occur when a doctor misdiagnoses a child with having a disease she does not have. Therefore, the treatment and medication prescribed are unnecessary and may have caused negative impacts on throughout the life of the child.

In 2008, several hundred lawsuits were filed against Dr. Yasser Awaad for misdiagnoses of epilepsy in hundreds of children. The former Detroit-based pediatric neurologist was accused of misreading tests results and radiology images and then labeling the patients epileptic. The lawsuits also allege that he misread the test for monetary gain for himself and his employer. The legal complaints state that Awaad forced the children to take medical tests multiple times that even though the children did need them.

At the time the lawsuits were filed, many complainants were adults. In 2019, the cases finally went to trial. The court rendered a verdict in one of the cases for $3 million. A majority of the amount was for suffering, distress, and humiliation. Awaad surrendered his medical license and paid a $5,000 penalty.

Sometimes it take many years for a legal case to go to trial or reach a settlement. While awaiting for a court date or settlement conference, the party bringing the lawsuit may still incur legal costs. He also have personal financial obligations that he pay. To cover the cost of the litigation and other costs during a court case or while awaiting the start of the legal process, the person may need financing to cover expenses.

Litigation funding or litigation financing is a third party financing that pays the costs associated with the lawsuits. The third-party funding company assumes a financial risk by financing a party’s legal case because it gets it money back if the party wins the case or reaches a settlement. The party seeking the financing has the benefit of not paying the money back of his own pocket. Daren Monroe of Litigation Funding Corporation, Michigan advises, “Although the litigation financing company pay the legal costs, the attorney works for the client.” He continues, “The client controls the case, and the attorney must communicate only to the client in order to protect and preserve the attorney-client privilege.”

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