The Strange Case of the Honest Physician

By D. Hunt  for American Patient Rights Association
Oct. 9, 2017

​Dr. Lars Aanning, a retired South Dakota surgeon turned patient safety advocate, has been accused by his state medical licensing board of “moral turpitude” for committing perjury in a medical malpractice case that occurred 20 years ago, according to a report in the Argus Leader of the USA Today network. A hearing is set for Oct. 27.  

Last year Aanning confessed in a column and Facebook group that he lied under oath during a  medical malpractice trial when he told jurors that he had confidence in a colleague’s skills, even though privately that was not the case. Aanning said that, because of the pressure that exists in the South Dakota physician community, he was trying to protect a fellow surgeon who had been sued after his patient suffered a stroke following an operation. The state is moving to strip Aanning of his medical license.

In its complaint the board says that Aanning’s action “undermines the confidence of the public” by placing seeds of doubt about the truthfulness of the medical profession. “To tell the public that doctors look out for themselves and fellow doctors, even when it harms the patient, damages the trust required to provide good health care.”

On other occasions Aanning has accused doctors of looking out for themselves. Recently he disputed the cause of death of Brady Folkens, who was in state custody as a juvenile when he died in 2013. Folkens’ death was attributed to heart damage caused by a parvovirus B19 infection but Aanning argued Folkens’ illness was caused by an acne medication prescribed by the state. Folkens’ mother filed a lawsuit against the state.

In its 2017 family physicians ethics report, Medscape, a major online resource for physicians, revealed that 75% of surveyed physicians felt it was never okay to cover up or avoid revealing an error that harms a patient, a serious drop from 2010 when almost 95% of physicians indicated they felt that way. In the same survey it was revealed that only 64% of physicians would caution a patient from having a procedure performed by a colleague of questionable ability.   

The Code of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association calls on physicians to disclose medical errors if they have occurred during a patient's care, and the Hippocratic Oath requires physicians to first do no harm. 

Copyright  2017 American Patient Rights Association. All rights reserved.  


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