Sicilian Doctors Making Money on the Dead

November 18, 2008 08:55 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Some 50,000 patients have been kept on medical lists despite having been dead for decades, and Sicily’s doctors are pocketing their government benefits.

Probe Reveals Medical Fraud

A police investigation has found that some doctors are making claims for deceased patients who in some cases have been dead for 20 years, and it may be costing the Italian health system more than 14 million euros a year. Sicilian doctors make about 38 euros a year per patient.

Prosecutors have not decided whether they will press criminal charges. According to the Italian news agency Ansa, it is not clear whether reporting a death is the responsibility of local authorities, individual doctors or the health service. Regional health official Massimo Russo says that some doctors might not be aware of a patient’s death if it is not reported to them.

“It is one of the many failings of our system,” Russo said to the BBC. “Many cases border on being in breach of the law but they are also the result of poor organisation.”

Related Topics: People go to extremes to keep deceased’s benefits

In the last year, American news media reported several instances in the United States where people have taken desperate steps to keep government benefit checks coming in.

David Daloia and James O’Hare faced charges after they tried to cash their friend’s $355 welfare check, the New York Post reported in January. Virgilio Cintron had recently died, and when the check-cashing store said he had to be present in order to honor the check, the men rolled him down New York City’s streets in an office chair.

“A police detective lunching at a nearby restaurant saw Cintron, decided right away he was dead, and questioned Daloia and O'Hare, who ended up spending the next three days under arrest,” the Post said.

According to the New York Times, it was believed Cintron died of natural causes.
In upstate New York, a man’s lawyer contacted police to tell them a woman, Herta Auslander, had died last year. Auslander’s son, Roland, allegedly kept the woman’s body in a freezer while he collected her Social Security benefits, the Associated Press reported. Her body was discovered in October, and an autopsy determined she died of natural causes.

In California, a man and woman were arrested in October and accused of cremating their elderly relative in their backyard, and then collecting more than $25,000 of her retirement benefits. Tony Ray, 30, and Kathleen Allmond, 50, were accused of cremating Ramona Allmond, Kathleen Allmond’s mother, after she died in December of natural causes. Last week, the pair plead guilty to charges of felony theft and disposing of human remains outside of a cemetery.

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