A Detroit-area doctor accused of intentionally misdiagnosing hundreds of Michigan kids with epilepsy has reportedly left the country, according to plaintiffs' attorneys.
The case against Dr. Yasser Awaad has been dragging on for almost 10 years now. Some 250 patients and their families filed a class action suit in 2008, claiming they came in to see the pediatric neurologist with symptoms like headaches, only to be told they had epilepsy and needed extensive treatments, medications, and sometimes, surgeries.
But in reality, the suit says, Dr. Awaad was intentionally misdiagnosing patients in order to rack up more treatments, tests, and money – both for himself and his then-employer, Oakwood Healthcare (which has since merged with Beaumont Health.)
Dr. Awaad has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. His attorney’s office declined to comment today about the case or Dr. Awaad’s current location.
In a deposition last month, Awaad said his contract with Beaumont Health had ended, and he was planning on taking a vacation to Egypt, after which he’d starting looking for work there. Now, the plaintiff’s attorneys wants the Wayne County Circuit Court to force him to return to the U.S. for further deposition.
“We’re entitled to … more hours of discovery deposition time,” says attorney Brian McKeen. “And this information about him planning to leave the country was not shared with us until shortly before he left. Therefore we were unable to complete the depositions before his departure.”
Back in 2012, Dr. Awaad was placed on probation by the Michigan’s Board of Medicine Disciplinary Subcommittee, which required he pay a $10,000 fine and complete 30 hours of continuing education in “the area of epilepsy and/or neurophysiology.”
He was discharged from probation on August 31, 2015. Just days later, Beaumont Health hired him full-time, putting him in charge of developing and teaching pediatric neurology curriculum for medical students, with a base pay of $260,000.
That contract also required Awaad to get permission before doing any clinical work on the side, while forbidding him from 1) doing any clinical work at Beaumont and 2) identifying himself as a Beaumont Health clinician.
A spokesperson for Beaumont declined to comment Monday, citing pending litigation. So why did Beaumont hire Awaad after he’d been disciplined by the state and was facing lawsuits from former patients?
“I have racked my brain trying to find an answer to that question, and I keep coming up short,” says McKeen. “I cannot come up with any reason why Beaumont Hospital would hire this individual, who I think has been so severely discredited. And it’s curious that when Beaumont hired him back, they expressly forbid him from seeing any patients … and he was not allowed to tell anybody he was a Beaumont doctor.”
McKeen says he’s hoping to get a response from the court in the next 30 days regarding Awaad’s return.
This piece has been corrected to show that McKeen's first name is Brian, not Bill.