UC Regents Face Big Problems From Doc

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – A married couple sued a University of California doctor already embroiled in an ethics scandal, claiming he severed a nerve in the wife’s back, causing irreversible paralysis.
     Donna and Dennis Lawhead sued Dr. Jan Paul Muizelaar and the UC Regents for medical malpractice in Superior Court. The Lawheads also allege dependent adult abuse, battery, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and loss of consortium.
     Donna Lawhead claims her injuries stem from a June 30, 2012 procedure at UC Davis Medical Center, during which Muizelaar severed a nerve in her back while performing neurosurgery.
     She suffered immediate paralysis in Muizelaar’s care and continues to require 24-hour skilled nursing care as a result – and probably never will recover from her injuries, the complaint states.
     After the botched surgery, the Lawheads claim, they learned that Muizelaar is not licensed to practice medicine in California, but has just a “special faculty permit” from the UC Regents.
     “Defendants represented to plaintiffs that Jan Paul Muizelaar was a physician regularly licensed by the State of California,” the complaint states.
     It continues: “Defendants’ representation was false. In fact, Muizelaar only had a Special Faculty Permit.
     “Defendants knew the representation was false when defendants made it or made the representation recklessly and without regard for its truth.
     “Defendants intended plaintiffs to rely on the representation and intended to obtain Donna L. Lawhead as a patient for Muizelaar, for monetary gain and profit.
     “Plaintiffs reasonably relied on defendants’ representations.
     “Plaintiffs were harmed by defendants’ representations. Because of said representations, plaintiffs allowed Jan Paul Muizelaar to treat and operate on Donna L. Lawhead. All such treatment and surgery by Muizelaar was unauthorized, inappropriate and below the standard of care for neurosurgeons regularly licensed by the State of California.
     “Plaintiffs’ reliance on the representations of defendants was a substantial factor in causing harm to plaintiffs. Had plaintiffs known that Muizelaar was not a physician regularly licensed by the State of California, plaintiffs would not have consented to Muizelaar operating on Donna L. Lawhead,” the couple says in their complaint.
     In their complaint, the Lawheads accuse the UC Regents of hiding other problems involving the doctor.
     The complaint states: “Prior to the referring of Donna L. Lawhead to Jan Paul Muizelaar for neurosurgery, the Regents had received complaints concerning their agent and employee which alleged the following: (a) Muizelaar had the highest rate of patient death and complications of the doctors in the Department of Neurosurgery; (b) Muizelaar had the highest rate of malpractice claims of doctors in the Department of Neurosurgery; (c) Muizelaar had falsified medical records; (d) Muizelaar lacked necessary operative skills as a surgeon; (e) Muizelaar had caused illegal and fraudulent billing practices; (f) Muizelaar received bonuses based in part on the number of surgeries he performed; (g) the Regents earned millions of dollars by continuing to refer patients to Muizelaar for surgery in spite of the above.
     “The Regents’ decision to provide a special license to Muizelaar to practice neurosurgery even though he could not qualify for a regular medical license, and the Regents continued willingness to employ Muizelaar and to refer patients to him for neurosurgery in spite of his poor surgical skills and dismissal record were decisions motivated by greed. The Regents’ motivation was to maximize profits even at the expense of patient safety.”
     Six months after botching Lawhead’s surgery, Muizelaar took a voluntary leave of absence from UC Davis in the wake of a federal investigation into his unauthorized human trials of a controversial, and unapproved, brain cancer treatment, according to the Sacramento Bee.
     The Bee reported in late December 2012 that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Sciences had determined that Muizelaar and another doctor implanted bacteria typically found in human bowels into the brains of three cancer patients in 2010 and 2011, two of whom died of sepsis shortly after the surgeries.
     The FDA had ordered the doctors to conduct extensive animal trials before attempting the experiment on humans, although the patients signed consent forms before the procedure, according to the Bee’s report.
     A third patient lived for nearly a year before her tumors returned. According to a second article in the Bee article , an autopsy of the woman’s brain found that chronic meningitis contributed to her death.
     Muizelaar bought the Enterobacter aerogenes bacteria from a lab in Virginia, claiming he was conducting studies on lab rats, according to the Bee. Both doctors have defended their actions by claiming they were providing “innovative treatment” and not conducting research.
     In a third article last year, the Bee reported that Muizelaar was one of the UC system’s highest-paid employees, earning $801,841 in 2010. He had been chairman of the UC Davis Department of Neurological Surgery since 1997.
     A native of the Netherlands, Muizelaar told the Bee that he never bothered to get a license to practice medicine in California because he already works 80-100 hours per week and said the license was “not necessary.”
     “I’ll be frank with you, I’m world famous, so they gave me the license to practice here,” Muizelaar told the Bee. “I can go sit for the exams, but why would I do that?”
     The Lawheads seek punitive damages from Muizelaar and the UC Board of Regents.
     They are represented by Moseley Collins III of El Dorado Hills.

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