Today’s health horror story is about a dentist who used paper clip fillings in root canals, which is crazytown. The dentist, 54-year-old Michael Clair, was sentenced to one year in jail, but that doesn’t make the story any less disturbing. This story is so insane it shouldn’t remind me of anything, but it does: O’Neal Ron Morris, the fix-a-flat booty doctor in Florida who was arrested for injecting tire sealant into patients’ bodies.
The worst part about Clair’s story is that the paperclip fillings aren’t even the worst of what he did: Clair, who was practicing in Massachusetts, had his license suspended in 2002, but continued practicing and filing Medicaid claims under other doctors’ names. He plead guilty to defrauding Medicaid for $130,000, for which he’s facing a year in jail, but he’s also being charged with assault and battery, illegally prescribing meds and witness intimidation. (Sounds like a real stand-up guy, aside from mistaking paper clips for stainless steel posts, right?)
Putting paperclips into someone’s mouth may not sound as extreme as injecting injecting fix-a-flat tire sealant into someone’s body, but using metals other than stainless steel for fillings can be painful and even lead to infection. Clair’s patients say they did suffer infections after he performed their root canals, and one mother says her son’s tooth turned black and had to be removed after he received a filling from Clair. She doesn’t seem to feel that his year-long jail sentence is fair; frankly, it isn’t.
This surge in sham health care providers could just be a coincidence, but it could also be a sign that our health care system needs help. If Medicare can’t keep track of who’s filing claims, and patients aren’t empowered enough to figure out whether their doctor has a license or is even practicing safe medicine, then we’ve got a problem. Hopefully, it’s mostly limited to a handful of sociopath doctors who get caught quickly and thrown into jail, but Clair was practicing illegally for years before he was put to a stop. This is why you need to be your own advocate as a patient.