Suspended Vermont Doctor Faces 21 Counts of Unprofessional Conduct

December 13, 2007

A former Burlington, Vt. eye doctor who beat federal fraud charges for performing allegedly unnecessary cataract surgeries has lost his latest battle, with a finding by the state Board of Medical Practice that he engaged in unprofessional conduct.

Attorney General William Sorrell announced that ophthalmologist Dr. David Chase had been found guilty by the board that regulates physicians of 21 counts of unprofessional conduct in his treatment of 10 patients.

The board gave Chase and the attorney general’s office 30 days to recommend possible penalties for the conduct.

The board summarily suspended Chase’s license in 2003 but later reinstated it. Chase, who is about 70, since has allowed his license to lapse, Sorrell said.

The state’s civil charges against Chase mirrored the federal criminal charges of which he was acquitted two years ago: It said he recommended unnecessary cataract surgeries for patients, misdiagnosed patients, discouraged them from seeking second opinions and falsified patient records.

The federal charges, tried in U.S. District Court in Burlington in the fall of 2005, alleged that Chase defrauded health care programs by billing for the treatments. After his acquittal, the U.S. attorney’s office also dropped a $1 million civil suit against Chase.

The Medical Practice Board found Chase had performed unprofessionally with 10 patients. As described in a news release issued by Sorrell’s office, the 21 counts included:

10 in which Chase “exhibited a gross failure to exercise the degree of care that would be exercised by a reasonable physician in similar circumstances;”

Seven that he “failed to practice competently;”

Four that Chase’s care was “below the personal and moral standards required of a physician.”

Chase did not immediately return a message left Tuesday at his Shelburne home. His lawyers, Eric Miller and Jeffrey Behm, also did not immediately return phone messages left at their office.

“This is vindication for those patients who made the difficult decision to come forward and raise concerns about the care they received from their doctor,” Sorrell said in a statement.

Some of Chase’s patients have sued him in separate court actions. The Web site for the Chittenden Superior Court on Tuesday listed 17 pending civil cases in which Chase was listed as the defendant.

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