The Military: Clearing a Navy Doctor

Clearing a Navy Doctor

The prisoner was a victim of a "smear campaign" and trial tactics "that never should have been permitted." With those strong words, a Navy appeals court last week overturned the conviction of Commander Donal Billig, Bethesda Naval Hospital's chief heart surgeon, who was court-martialed in 1986 on charges of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide.

In a controversial case that prompted congressional investigations into the quality of military heath care, Billig had been sentenced to four years in prison for "wrongfully" performing coronary-bypass surgery on three patients who later died. Prosecutors, the appeals court said, had unfairly portrayed the experienced doctor as...

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