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Dix Hills Doctor Harvey Finkelstein Tops Pain Management Malpractice List

Dec 17, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP Harvey Finkelstein is the Dix Hills Doctor whose medical malpractice exposed patients to blood-borne pathogen infections because of shoddy practices.  Finkelstein, an anesthesiologist whose patient base reaches into the thousands, is no longer practicing medicine at three of the hospitals and clinics where he had privileges.  So far, one patient contracted hepatitis C as a result of his practices; six other patients tested positive for hepatitis B and six more for hepatitis C.  The state added 8,500 people to the list of patients notified that they are at risk due to Finkelstein’s improper procedures; in all, nearly 11,000 patients have been identified.

According to the State Medical Society on Long Island, Finkelstein has far more malpractice settlements than any other pain-management specialist and is among 475 of the state’s 89, 681—0.5 percent—physicians statewide enrolled in the malpractice pool for doctors unable to get insurance.  Finkelstein is insured as a pain management specialist, as pain management is a lower risk, lower cost specialty than anesthesiology.

In 1995, he was sued, on average, once or twice yearly.  All but two of the 17 lawsuits filed against Finkelstein concern epidural injections.  Seven plaintiffs said their epidurals caused nerve damage or paralysis; two:  meningitis; three: serious infections; and three concerned reused syringes.  At least 10 of the lawsuits led to settlements.  None of the other 11 pain-management specialists from Long Island listed had more than one settlement. Nine had none.

A 52-year old woman suffering with debilitating back pain was seen by Finkelstein who treated her with epidural injections.  Thirteen months later she died from aggressive lymphoma her husband believes could have caused the pain.  Finkelstein assured them her abdominal scan was benign though other doctors called it a prime lymphoma indicator. Finkelstein settled with her estate for $925,000.   Another lawsuit indicated that stopping a patient’s blood pressure medication so she could receive injections her cardiologist approved resulted in stroke.  Another woman settled a lawsuit against Finkelstein, stating her improperly administered epidural was so painful she awoke under anesthesia.  Finkelstein told her she was fine to go home, but a hospital visit revealed her spinal fluid was leaking.  She remained hospitalized for eight days.  Another man who visited saw Finkelstein three times a year for epidural injections for a chronic back condition received injections following a hepatitis C patient who underwent
the same procedure; he contracted the disease from Finkelstein's syringe.  Peter Cicero visited Finkelstein to relieve chronic back pain, suffered from paralysis as a result of a botched procedure, and died from complications as a result of hepatitis C.  Cicero received a $975,000 settlement after Finkelstein’s spinal procedure left him partially paralyzed.  Before Cicero suffered his catastrophic spinal cord injury, his hepatitis C tests were negative.

On his resume previously posted on his now offline Web site, Finkelstein was described as a 1985 fellow in pediatric and cardiac anesthesia and a 1986 fellow in pain management via Stony Brook Hospital.  A hospital spokeswoman said they were not accredited to offer fellowships in pain management until 1994, in pediatric anesthesia until recently, and are not accredited in cardiac anesthesia.

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