Syracuse Surgeon Slapped Sedated Patients, Called Them Names Before Operating

| by Jonathan Wolfe
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A federal investigation found Syracuse surgeon Michael Clark routinely slapped sedated patients on the buttocks and insulted them before surgery. The findings of the Department of Health and Human Service’s investigation have led the federal government to consider withholding funding from Clark's employer, St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center. 

The Syracuse Post-Standard reports that Clark’s slaps often left red marks and handprints on patient’s bodies. Several medical staff members who spoke with federal investigators said Clark would often accompany his slaps with derogatory remarks, like “fat ass.” One assistant said Clark would “almost wind up” before slapping patients.

Clark claims he slapped patients to see if administered anesthetics had taken hold. But according to investigators and doctors who spoke on the investigation’s findings, this is not an accepted technique. Dr. Stewart Lustick of the University of Rochester Medical Center told the Syracuse Post-Standard that giving a patient a pinch near the incision area is the appropriate way to gauge anesthetic presence.

St. Joseph’s CEO Kathryn Ruscitto says “Immediate disciplinary actions were taken with the physician and staff involved.”

The findings on Clark come just months after the Department of Human and Health Services cited the hospital for failing to use proper infection control methods. That negligence, combined with Clark’s actions, has led the federal government to consider withholding funding from the hospital.

A March 27 letter from the department said "We have determined that the deficiencies cited are significant and limit your hospital's capacity to render adequate care and to ensure the health and safety of your patients.”

Clark denies any wrongdoing, but refuses to comment on the investigation. 

Sources: Syracuse Post-Standard, North County Public Radio