Monday, November 28, 2005


A former cancer researcher at a Veterans Affairs hospital was sentenced Monday to nearly six years in prison for criminally negligent homicide in the death of an Air Force veteran enrolled in a drug experiment. Paul Kornak admitted forging medical records at the Stratton Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 1999-2002 to make dozens of patients eligible to participate in drug studies. He also pleaded guilty to fraud and making a false statement. In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. called Kornak "callous and insensitive."

Kornak, 54, said he was "a broken man" and apologized, but added that everything he did was ordered by the VA hospital's cancer program director. The judge ordered him to pay almost $639,000 in restitution to two drug companies and the VA.

The homicide charge stemmed from the death of 71-year-old James DiGeorgio in 2001. He died a few weeks after participating in a drug-research program for stomach cancer. The judge said that while it was not clear whether the experimental chemotherapy treatments caused or hastened the deaths of any patients, it was clear that they did not qualify for the experimental program and that Kornak doctored their records.

Kornak was indicted in 2003 on charges that included manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. His arrest led to a nationwide investigation by the General Accounting Office that found inadequate policies and training to protect volunteers at VA research centers. A month before DiGeorgio died, Kornak forged the test results of a blood sample provided by DiGeorgio so that he could qualify for the study even though he suffered from liver and kidney problems, federal prosecutor Grant Jaquith said. Stratton earned thousands of dollars for each patient enrolled in drug trials.

Kornak was hired by Stratton in 1999 to coordinate clinical trials, even though he had served three years' probation for fraud in Pennsylvania for falsifying a medical license application. He acknowledged posing as a doctor though he never completed his training at a school on the Caribbean island of Grenada.
Kornak was fired in 2003 along with his boss, Dr. James Holland, a cancer specialist. Holland has not been charged. Jaquith would not comment on whether any charges would be filed.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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