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Manslaughter in UK, licensed in US

A British “spinal surgeon” built an impressive patient base in New Jersey but never told U.S. licensing authorities that in the U.K., he had been convicted of manslaughter over a patient death, according to a November 1 report published in The Guardian.

Richard Kaul made millions of dollars as a “minimally invasive spinal surgeon,” despite not being qualified to perform spinal surgeries. Kaul, an anaetheist, was found to be grossly negligent and incompetent in 11 cases involving spinal surgeries, according to The Guardian report. But before these incidents occurred, a dental patient died during routine treatment under Kaul’s care for which Kaul received a suspended prison sentence for manslaughter. Kaul failed to mention this incident and his conviction to the New Jersey medical board in 2002, was granted his license, and opened practice in America as a surgeon.

Kaul contends that the 11 complaints aren’t significant and that he’s qualified to conduct spinal surgery. Kaul asserts that there is no recognized fellowship for minimally invasive spine surgery, “So when a doctor wants to get training, he goes and undertakes the same types of courses I had undertaken since 2002. There were no standards; there wasn’t one specific qualification or programme, and there still isn’t.”

But Dr Russell Nelson, a spine surgeon for 30 years and medical director of the Nelson Spine Institute points out that someone like Kaul, trained in anaesthesia, is not properly qualified in spinal anatomy. Nelson points out that there the two ways to become a spine surgeon in the US (orthopaedics and neurosurgery), and both take years to complete.

Nonetheless, Kaul did not complete years of training in orthopaedics or neurosurgery. Kaul’s case may illuminate a developing, but less defined area of “minimally invasive” spinal surgery that has many back doors, which Kaul took advantage of. After the 2001 incident, Kaul went to South Korea to attend a two-week spine surgery course. He returned to New York, his medical licence reinstated, and began working in pain management treatment clinics, performing spinal surgery on patients.


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