San Bernadino, CAUntying this legal Gordian knot will take the skill of a seasoned litigator without a doubt. However, unlike Alexander the Great, famous for slicing through the complex legendary knot with a single swing of his sword, the undoing of Dr. Vinod Patwardhan may take a bit more time — even for medical malpractice attorney Bill Newkirk.
Newkirk has been practicing medical malpractice law in California for more than three decades, or as he likes to say, for “thirty-two many years”. He has worked his way through everything from nasty nursing homes to a successful suit against a dentist whose patient’s shiny new dental veneers turned black.
“This is the kind of behavior by a doctor that we would hope would come to the surface quickly –- unfortunately that did not happen in this case,” says Newkirk, speaking about the alleged practices of Dr. Patwardhan. “Typically we see human error or they just don’t know better. This is quite different.”
Patwardhan is a 70-year-old San Bernardino doctor recently convicted of importing and smuggling almost $1 million worth of unapproved drugs into the US and then using those drugs to treat cancer patients at his clinic. The California Medical Board is still pondering Dr. Vinod Patwardhan’s future as a licensed physician, but in a few weeks, a federal court judge is expected to sentence Dr. Patwardhan to jail.
For several years, Dr. Patwardhan treated hundreds of cancer patients at his office and among them was 67-year-old Veronica Lind. Although Lind’s cancer was advanced and was a cancer with a high rate of re-occurrence, her condition was not necessarily believed to be terminal.
When Lind died and her husband and children learned about the criminal accusations against Dr. Patwardhan they began to wonder if the medications used to treat Veronica Lind may have hastened or even caused her death.
Newkirk has filed a multipronged suit on behalf Lind family.
“Some of the medications that Patwardhan was giving the patients were either adulterated or diluted and some he failed to refrigerate,” says Newkirk. “Sometimes he refilled single dose syringes and sometimes he gave patients syringes to take home, which is also against the law.”
Newkirk believes there is enough information about care Lind received at the hand of Patwardhan to make strong arguments of medical malpractice, elder abuse, wrongful death, willful misconduct and fraud. “We see this as egregious, willful, wonton misconduct with no regard for the consequences.”
As for Dr. Patwardhan, he argued during his criminal trial that he was simply providing critical drugs to patients who would not otherwise have access to them. “That is certainly an argument that he was making,” says Newkirk. “It is not one that was helpful to him then and I don’t think it is going to be helpful in this instance.”
. By Brenda Craig
William Newkirk has been elected six times to the Board of Governors of the Consumer Advocates Association of Los Angeles. Because of his many successful trial outcomes and because of extensive writings on trends and strategies in medical malpractice law, Newkirk is a sought after litigator and speaker.