TUCSON, Ariz., Nov. 2, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — According to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), on Nov 1, 2012, vascular surgeon John Natale, M.D., 63, of Arlington, Ill., reported to the federal Bureau of Prisons to serve a 10-month sentence. According to a U.S. Department of Justice press release, he was convicted on two counts of making false statements in connection with surgeries performed between August 2002 and October 2004, and acquitted on two counts of Medicare fraud.
Dr. Natale had saved the lives of five seriously ill patients, average age 78, by complicated repairs of abdominal aortic aneurysms. He was, however, accused of describing the procedures as more complex than they actually were, supposedly in order to collect more payment.
According to the transcript of the sentencing proceedings, U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Singh Bhachu emphasized that “The need for deterrence is very strong in a case like this…. A message needs to be sent out to doctors.” The government aimed not just to end a distinguished medical career but to imprison the doctor for as long as possible.
“The message doctors will receive,” stated Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, “is that the government has declared war on doctors. Making a mistake in two of 2,400 operative reports is apparently now a federal crime, even though the doctor’s total charges were much less than he could have lawfully billed.” (emphasis added).