Former Veterans Affairs Doctor Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter

Arkansas resident Robert Morris Levy, a Veterans Affairs (VA) pathologist who has been accused of misdiagnosing over 3,000 people while impaired by drugs, pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and mail fraud. Due to Levy’s negligence and malpractice, thousands of cases have been misdiagnosed, and at least 15 patients have died at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks.

Kelly Copelin, one of the victims of Levy’s misconduct, no longer has the ability to safely eat food orally. Levy initially misdiagnosed Copelin’s cancer, while later tests revealed that Kelly Copelin had Stage 4 cancer. By the time doctors had discovered Levy’s misdiagnosis, Kelly’s condition had become so severe that her treatment would result in the inability to swallow, requiring her to be tube fed for the rest of her life.

Levy’s carelessness did not stop there, however. Robert Thomas Chick, who passed away in 2017 from lung cancer, was also misdiagnosed by Levy. Investigators determined that the pathologist misdiagnosed Chick in 2015, after which his cancer became more severe.

These deaths and misdiagnoses may have been easily avoided if Levy was sober. The medical provider’s misdiagnosis rate was more than 10 times the average rate for pathologists, with an error rate of 8.9% according to federal Veterans Department figures. Levy failed the medical system by misdiagnosing cancers and other serious illnesses.

Rehabilitation of Robert Levy

Levy has admitted to abusing drugs in the past. After he was caught intoxicated on the job in 2016, he was sent to a program for impaired medical professionals in Mississippi. When he returned to work, he was watched carefully and regularly drug tested. 

To pass these drug tests, Levy started using an untraceable substance with the same effects as alcohol. He also used a drug called  2-methyl-2-butanol (2M2B), which is a non-approved substance used to hide the alcohol level in the body. The substance is not approved for individual use and cannot be detected in most drug or alcohol tests. By using these tactics, Levy passed over 40 drug tests during his career.

The Veterans Affairs Administration fired Levy after an arrest for driving under the influence in 2018. Following the arrest, the Veterans Affairs required Levy to complete a year and a half review of all his cases from the past 12 years. He is now facing up to 28 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. 

New Policies Added to The System

As a result of this scandal, the Veterans Affairs Administration has created new policies, such as mandatory peer reviews, to prevent instances of medical malpractice. Many lives were lost due to Levy’s misconduct, but hopefully these new policies will protect future patients from doctors like Levy.