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A Public Death: Records Reveal Endangered Patients In Three States

A Public Death: Records Reveal Endangered Patients In Three States

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william heisel, death certificate, jack mark levine, reporting on health

Death certificates can be among the paving stones leading to a dangerous health practitioner.

In the case of Dr. Jack Mark Levine, lawsuits, court decisions, meeting minutes, and death certificates pave a trail to a doctor run amok, using patients for his own sexual gratification and making medical errors that have harmed patients. As is often the case with physicians who get themselves into trouble, Levine moved around a lot, practicing medicine in West Virginia, Ohio and Illinois. In every state, he ultimately has lost his license.

Lawrence Smith, a freelance writer in West Virginia, has attempted to document that trail through gumshoe reporting and FOIA after FOIA after FOIA. His work, in turn, is a good reminder for health writers that, when it comes to public records, we need to be persistent and consistent.

I am going to describe Smith's attempts to secure death certificates in my next post. First, though, it's helpful to understand some of the regulatory and legal actions against Levine. Here's an abbreviated timeline:

1982 – Levine graduates from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.

1989 – Levine is licensed by the State Medical Board of Ohio to practice osteopathic medicine and surgery.

1992 – The family of Kandi Tweedy files suit against Levine for allegedly misdiagnosing the severity of injuries Tweedy suffered during a car crash. The suit is later settled out of court.

1994 – The first in a series of malpractice lawsuits is filed against Levine. According to Smith's reporting in The West Virginia Record, Levine was sued at least five times between 1994 and 2001 for malpractice. "All of the cases were either settled out-of-court or dismissed." Included in this list of cases is the 2000 lawsuit from the estate of Helen Zeigler for wrongful death.

May 2001 – Levine allegedly leaves a piece of catheter in the chest of patient named Ralph A. Barcus. The Gallipolis, Ohio, patient saw the device in an X-ray after it had moved into his lung, causing him chest pain. He sues Levine in December 2006, and the case is later settled out of court.

December 2007 – Levine is arrested and charged in Ohio with misdemeanor "sexual imposition," for allegedly touching a patient inappropriately after she sought treatment for painkiller addiction.

February 2008 – Levine is charged in Ohio with "one count each of illegal processing of drug documents, deception to obtain a dangerous drug and aggravated possession of drugs," according to The West Virginia Record.

June 2008 – The Ohio medical board files charges against Levine, alleging he sexually manipulated three patients being treated for painkiller addiction. For example, he made a series of sexually explicit phone calls to one patient, at one point calling her his "sex toy." In September 2009, the medical board permanently revokes Levine's license.

April 2010 – Based on the Ohio board's decision, the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation suspends Levine's license.

July 2011 – The Ohio Court of Appeals upholds the decision to permanently revoke Levine's license in Ohio.

September 2011 – The West Virginia Board of Osteopathy revokes Levine's license "until eligible for licensure in Ohio."

December 2011 – Lawrence Smith files a freedom of information lawsuit against Karen Cole, the clerk of the Cabell County Commission in West Virginia, to gain access to Zeigler's death certificate.

As I noted above, I will write more about Smith's hunt for death certificates in my next post and show some of the death records he has been able to obtain.

Related Posts:

A Public Death: State Laws Hiding Death Certificates Can Hurt the Living

A Public Death: Violent Nursing Home Deaths Exposed In Michigan

A Public Death: Coroner Goes Rogue with Suicide-By-Cop

A Public Death: Health Writers Can Show Value Of Open Access

Photo credit: Timo Newton-Syms via Flickr

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