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Michigan Doctor Yasser Awaad Faces Trial Over Wrong Epilepsy Diagnosis

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A Michigan woman has accused former Oakwood Healthcare physician Dr. Yasser Awaad of misdiagnosing her epilepsy. Awaad allegedly misread her test results to convince her to undergo more testing and medication to make more money for his employer.
  ( Colin Behrens | Pixabay )

A doctor in Michigan is facing charges of medical malpractice after he allegedly misdiagnosed a patient with epilepsy and recommended unnecessary treatments for financial gain.

Dr. Yasser Awaad, a former physician at Oakwood Healthcare, is being accused of intentionally misdiagnosing hundreds of Detroit-area children over the years.

Awaad would often tell his patients that they were suffering from epilepsy or some other seizure disorder. He would then tell them that they need to undergo further testing and receive medications that were not really necessary.

Lawyers for one of Awaad's former patients claimed that the doctor and Oakwood Healthcare were running some form of scam, where the employer supposedly turned a blind eye to his suspiciously high productivity if it meant making more money for the hospital.

Years Of Epilepsy Misdiagnosis

Mariah Martinez, 26, was one of the patients who were misdiagnosed by Awaad. She was just 9 years old at the time and had been suffering from chronic headaches. After seeing the doctor, she was told that she had epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder characterized by recurrent and often unprovoked seizures, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

A patient is diagnosed with the condition if they experience two unprovoked seizures, or one unprovoked seizure with the possibility of more, which was not caused by a known or reversible medical condition such as alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar.

Epilepsy seizures may have something to do with an existing brain injury or a family tendency. However, the exact cause is yet to be determined by doctors.

In Martinez's case, Awaad recommended that she should undergo epilepsy treatment. She was given anti-seizure medicines, which she said made her feel sluggish. The doctor would also occasionally hook the little girl to a machine to record her brain waves.

Awaad advised Martinez to avoid engaging in any activities that would be strenuous to her heart. This often left her as the target of teasing by other students in her school.

In 2007, Martinez went to see a different doctor regarding her condition. It was when she and her mother found out that she did not have epilepsy.

"How could that be?" said Laura Abdel-Slater, Martinez's mother. "Epilepsy is something that's not curable."

Legal Case Against Awaad and Oakwood Healthcare

Martinez has filed charges against Awaad and Oakwood Healthcare for malpractice and negligence. Jury selection for the upcoming trial will be held on Monday, June 3.

Her lawyers alleged that Awaad had ordered epilepsy tests on hundreds of patients and purposely misread the results. They believe the doctor and Oakwood Healthcare were operating an "EEG mill," in reference to the electroencephalogram that is used to measure the brain activity of people.

In a recent court filing, Martinez's counsel alluded to the possibility that the hospital was willing to look past Awaad's suspicious activity to make a profit.

After Awaad left Oakwood Healthcare in 2007 to take a job in Saudi Arabia, several of his former patients went to see other doctors. Many of Awaad's initial diagnoses were reversed by these new physicians.

Other doctors consulted by defense lawyers regarding the earlier epilepsy diagnoses said Awaad had misinterpreted the EEG results.

"If I made a mistake, I came up with a diagnosis to the best of my ability," Awaad told lawyers during a 2017 deposition. "That's a different story than intentionally telling them that you have epilepsy and they don't have epilepsy."

In 2014, Oakwood Healthcare merged with fellow Michigan-based health organization Beaumont Health. This came years after the first lawsuit against Awaad and Oakwood was filed.

Mark Geary, a spokesman for Beaumont Health, reiterated the company's stance that the patients involved in the incident were treated appropriately.

In 2012, Awaad entered a deal with Michigan regulators to settle charges that he unnecessarily prescribed anti-seizure treatment to four children. He was forced to pay a $10,000 fine and had his work reviewed by other doctors for a certain period.

The lawyers of 300 other former Awaad patients failed to build a class-action lawsuit against the doctor, so they are now focusing the first trial on Martinez's case.

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