Another story in the news. The headline says "Department of Veterans Affairs employees destroyed veterans’ medical records to cancel backlogged exam requests". While the headline may be accurate, it's incomplete. This story is only partly about the VA. Unmentioned in the article is the fact that the clinical parts of the VAMC are run largely by UCLA under contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs. In particular, the person who initiated the records destruction, according to the linked article, wasDr. Suzie El-Saden, who is an associate clinical professor in the UCLA Department of Radiology. According to the article, it was Dr. El-Saden who "initiated an 'ongoing discussion in the department' to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans’ medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist" at the VA. It's that same University of California pattern that I've written about before: University of California supervisors demanding unethical and potentially criminal behavior from their subordinates.
There's plenty wrong with alleged University of California actions described in the linked article, but here's something that I think is particularly galling:
Those undergraduates who were apparently exposed to radioactive gas vented near their dorms? The University is going to keep track of them for the rest of their lives. Wherever they go, whatever they do, for as long as they live, the University of California Alumni Office will keep track of those undergrads and hit them up for donations.
Meanwhile, the medical offices and epidemiology departments of the University will likely show negative interest in the likely increased risk of lung cancer, or possibly other cancers, developed by those undergraduates who spent large amounts of time apparently unknowingly inhaling radioactive gas. What is "negative interest" in this context? "Zero" interest would simply denote that the University would not track the increased risk of lung cancer due to long term inhalation of radioactive gas. "Negative interest" is what is really likely to happen: even if, by some chance, some researcher happens to find an increased risk of cancer in these unfortunate undergraduates, the University is likely to squash any knowledge of that risk and destroy any studies that show such an increased risk. Read the linked article: the University allegedly tried to cover up past and future wrongdoing by apparently firing whistleblowers.
Its an odd juxtaposition: close following for the purposes of getting money out of those undergrads as they age, combined with likely negative interest in cancers caused by the long-term exposure to radioactive gas. Those undergrads will get older, and will get letters every year or more asking for donations for the alma mater. Some will donate. At the same time, some of those aging undergrads may start to cough up blood, and loose half their body weight, and die young. That's likely to happen ... unless long term inhalation of radioactive gas in youth doesn't increase the risk of later lung cancer. If those aging undergrads do become deathly ill, then some of their donated funds will probably go towards covering up any connection between long term exposure to radioactive gas, and whatever health problems may have occurred as a result of that exposure. Those aging undergrads will have donated money to cover up their own destruction. Pretty sad, really.
The headline focuses on the wrong aspect of this case, in my opinion. It's not the million dollar plus fraud that's the biggest problem here. It's that the fraud was occasioned by the practice of not providing promised, and billed-for, services.
In this case, the promised and billed-for service was attending physician supervision during anesthesia. Something to consider if you plan to undergo anesthesia at a University of California facility.