Former VA doctor is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of 3 patients
Madeline Holcombe, CNN
(CNN) — A former doctor at an Arkansas veterans hospital has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of three patients.
Robert Morris Levy, a pathologist, entered false and misleading diagnoses into the medical records of patients in his care, contributing to the death of three of them, according to a criminal indictment. In one case, the indictment says, a patient died of prostate cancer after Levy had concluded that test results showed the patient did not have cancer.
Levy had been the Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medical Services at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks since 2005, according to a Department of Justice news release. He was fired in 2018.
In a statement made before Levy was charged, Kelvin Parks, director of the Fayetteville VA medical center, offered his “sincerest apology to the Veterans and family members negatively impacted by this now-fired former employee,” the Washington Post reported.
According to the indictment, Levy not only entered false or misleading diagnoses into patient records, on two occasions, he falsified entries to indicate that another pathologist had agreed with his diagnosis.
An attorney for Levy, Darren O’Quinn, issued a statement saying his client’s conduct had been the subject of “misstatements” in the media.
“An indictment is an accusation only, and we are reviewing the accusations and collecting evidence. There have already been some misstatements about Dr. Levy’s conduct in the media. Dr. Levy maintains his innocence and we intend to vigorously defend him,” the statement said.
Levy is also facing federal charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.
Those charges stem, in part, from allegations that he defrauded the VA by concealing that he had not complied with the requirements of the voluntary drug and alcohol testing program in which he was placed after the VA suspended his privileges to practice medicine in 2016, according to the news release from the DOJ.
Levy had been suspended “due to unprofessional conduct related to high blood alcohol content while on duty,” the release says.
After completing a three-month in-patient treatment program in 2016, Levy agreed to abstain from alcohol and other mood-altering substances and to submit to random screenings in order to return to practice and keep his job and medical license, the DOJ said.
Test results from his blood and urine specimens taken from November 2016 to June 2018 came back negative for drugs and alcohol, according to the indictment. But on 12 occasions beginning in June 2017, Levy purchased a chemical substance that allows a person to reach intoxication without it showing on a routine drug and alcohol screening, the Justice Department said.
Levy committed fraud when he continued to collect salary, benefits and performance awards while violating the sobriety contract, the DOJ said.
“These charges send a clear signal that anyone entrusted with the care of veterans will be held accountable for placing them at risk by working while impaired or through other misconduct. Our thoughts are with the veterans and their families affected by Dr. Levy’s actions,” said Michael Missal, inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs.