The Navy: Death At the Doctor's Hands

Death At the Doctor's Hands

In most coronary-bypass surgery, veins taken from a patient's leg must be deftly sewn to one or more of the heart's arteries, some no thicker than a straw. Last week a nine-member court-martial jury found that Commander Donal Billig, a Navy doctor and former chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital, had "wrongfully" performed that delicate operation. The result: two retired servicemen, Lieut. Colonel John Kas and Petty Officer Joe Estep, died in 1984 after Billig operated on them.

Billig, 55, had been fired from two previous jobs and had not performed open-chest surgery in nearly six years before entering...

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