The family of an Iowa veteran who died after brain surgery at the Iowa City VA hospital are suing the Department of Veterans Affairs for illegally hiring a neurosurgeon with an extensive history of malpractice.
Specifically, Army veteran Richard Hopkins died in 2017, at the age of 65, after developing post-surgery infections. The lawsuit, filed by Mr. Hopkin’s family, alleges that neurosurgeon John Henry Schneider, who performed four brain operations on Mr. Hopkins in a matter of weeks, is to blame.
Based on an investigation into Dr. Schneider’s background, I’d say that Mr. Hopkin’s family might be right.
Trail of Malpractice Claims
Since receiving his medical license in in 1997, Dr. Schneider has left a trail of malpractice claims in two different states, including cases alleging he made surgical mistakes that left patients maimed, paralyzed, or dead. He has been accused of destroying a patient’s bladder and bowel control after incorrectly placing spinal screws, he allegedly paralyzed another patient from the waist down after placing a device in the spinal column incorrectly, and the state of Wyoming revoked his license in 2014 after another surgical patient died. Following the revocation of his Wyoming medical license, Dr. Schneider applied for the full-time neurosurgeon position at the Iowa City VA Medical Center – a position that administration had been trying to fill for roughly a year. In his application, Dr. Schneider did disclose all these issues, yet the VA hired him anyways, after a group of his medical peers thoroughly reviewed his file and approved his competency. Thus, Dr. Schneider was hired in the spring of 2017 at an annual salary of $385,000.
Unfortunately, this would prove to be a mistake, and allegations of malpractice soon began cropping up. In July of 2017, Dr. Schneider performed surgery on Mr. Hopkins to remove a benign tumor from the 65-year-old’s brain, but, after undergoing three additional brain surgeries for ensuing complications, Mr. Hopkins ended up dead from an infection. Aside from Mr. Hopkins case, at least four other patients have suffered infections following procedures performed by Dr. Schneider at the Iowa City VA. In fact, an investigation by USA Today revealed that Dr. Schneider has had at least 15 medical malpractice claims filed against him in at least two different states and, to make matters worse, was sentenced last year to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to fraudulently hiding assets in a bankruptcy case in Montana – a bankruptcy which was filed as a result of several medical malpractice judgments against him.
The VA's Practices
Aside from the obvious problem of our veterans being treated by unlicensed, dare I say incompetent, physicians, such as Dr. Schneider, the VA’s practice of hiring physicians with revoked licenses is illegal. Federal law bars the VA from hiring physicians whose license has been revoked by a state board, even if they still have an active license in another state. However, according to VA spokesman Curt Cashour, the agency officials provided hospital officials in Iowa with “incorrect guidance” in approving Dr. Schneider’s hire. The Iowa VA subsequently moved to fire Dr. Schneider, but he resigned instead.
What’s even more problematic, is the fact that Dr. Schneider’s hiring is not an isolated incident, and VA hospitals across the country have knowingly hired an unknown number of doctors who have either been sanctioned or have had licenses revoked.
The results of the Schneider investigation, as well as other VA practitioners with troubled pasts, reveals the potentially dangerous, and even deadly, shortfalls that can result when they join the VA. Our nation's veterans deserve to be treated by well qualified and respected medical practitioners and they should not have to entrust their health and lives to unlicensed and poorly trained physicians. It’s a truly shocking problem and one that needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
Post Written by Whit Long