Brickbat: A Call for Help


Federal prosecutors have charged Robert Morris Levy—a pathologist at the Veterans Affairs clinic in Fayetteville, Ark.—with three counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of veterans whose diagnoses he got wrong. The VA says he improperly diagnosed at least 15 patients who later died and at least 15 others whose health was seriously harmed. In total, they say they have been able to document 3,000 errors or misdiagnoses made by Levy over 12 years at the clinic. Court records and other documents show Levy repeatedly showed up for work under the influence of alcohol. On one occasion, a test showed his blood alcohol level at 0.4. He was repeatedly suspended but allowed to come back each time. He was fired only after being arrested for DUI.

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  1. This is single-payer healthcare….

    1. Close enough, as whatever you call it, this is how government runs things.

      It’s very difficult to fire government employees and suspicious that people choose to endure all the government red tape just to get lower pay and all the bullshit associated with government employment.

    2. if only we could hold congress to this same rigorous standard!

      1. They have an easier job.

        You can be drunk off your ass in Congress. Not like you hold life and death in your hands.

  2. Question, what took them so damn long?

    1. A VA spokeswoman said the agency “used all legal measures in its control to fire the employee as quickly as possible.”

      But even after he arrived at the lab impaired at least twice, VA awarded Levy two performance bonuses on top of his $225,000 salary based on peer reviews that appeared to show that he had a minuscule clinical error rate, according to the indictment.

      As you can see, bureaucratic momentum shifted them into high gear.

      1. If you can’t fire him, at least you could keep him away from the pathology lab! And even if the union made you keep him there, it’s the VA’s vault for trusting his tests when they knew he was an incompetent drunk.

        “We’re sorry the bus driver crashed and killed fifty children. We knew he was an unsafe drunk, but we were not allowed to fire him. We had no choice but to let him continue driving the bus. Because we’re the government.”

  3. This all sounds pretty terrible – if you assume federal prosecutors are any more competent than VA pathologists.

  4. BAC 0.4! That’s something to aspire to. One can’t help but admire that kind of commitment and determination. Most mortals cease to function around 0.15-0.20

    1. Crazy high BAC as most states have DUI numbers at 0.08 BAC

      1. State limits are set arbitrarily in response to political pressure from activists groups. But once its set people seem to take the .08 limit as some bright line set by ‘Top Men’ ‘for the greater good’.

        I saw a servicemember go to article 15 for fighting – he screwed extra because he had been drinking at blew .08 when the base police arrived to break it up.

    2. A frat dude I worked with back in the day told me a story about his participation in a party with drinking games where he drank so much he had to go to the hospital and have his stomach pumped when someone noticed he wasn’t exactly breathing anymore. Otherwise he would have gone into a coma and possibly died. His blood alcohol level was 0.42%.

    3. Yeah, I ain’t buying that .4 level.

      1. It’s quite possible, for someone who has been drinking much too much for much too long. The body habituates to alcohol until it takes several times as much to get the same response. 0.50 will probably kill a non-drinker. A college freshman who reaches 0.40 in a frat initiation will probably be in a coma, with brain damage or death likely. But an old drunk will perform just as badly sober as at around 0.12, and can be still walking and talking at over 0.40.

        Unless the policy has changed since the last time I worked for the government, the VA was probably requiring this guy’s urine to be tested regularly for residues of marijuana and other drugs – residues that could be from use on the weekends, and that show nothing about the level of intoxication reached. But they didn’t make him blow in a breathalyzer to reveal how much of the most popular drug in the USA was in his system _at work_. And if his supervisors didn’t know he was drunk without any testing, they were utterly incompetent.

  5. On one occasion, a test showed his blood alcohol level at 0.4.

    Holy shit – was this guy Russian?

    1. Well, he certainly wasn’t Stalin to buy more drinks that night.

  6. Hey, don’t be so hard on the guy. He was good enough for government work….

  7. It’s too bad for him that the police union doesn’t accept government pathologists.

    1. “Your Honor, my client had never been instructed that trying to do pathology with a blood alcohol level of 4.0 might result in testing errors.”

      “Case closed. Qualified immunity.”

  8. Ok, so when do his superiors get arrested for being complicit with this shit?

    1. Second Tuesday after the 5th of Never.

    2. About when we arrest superiors who repeatedly hire illegal immigrants.

  9. Nationalized healthcare at it’s best.

    I don’t blame the drunk. Drunks will be drunk just like fish will be wet. I blame the VA, both for keeping him on, and for keeping in a position where he could do harm. It might make the government sad to fire him, but fucking reason they didn’t just stick him in a room with playdough where he couldn’t hurt anyone.

    1. you can do some pretty strange things with playdough…just sayin!

      1. Which is why I did NOT say “puppy dogs and playdough”. Don’t want the puppies getting hurt.

  10. A lot of judgmental people in here. If only I could be as functional as this guy with my drinking habit, I could rule the world.

  11. Malpractice lawyers are going to be lining up on this. Most malpractice carriers have a limit on payout. The federal government covers VA docs directly so there is no limit.

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