A federal complaint alleges that South Dakota neurosurgeon Dr. Wilson Asfora made millions by performing unnecessary and invasive sugeries in an effort to profit from medical devices in which he had a financial interest. In their lawsuit, which was obtained by the Argus Leader, the Justice Department alleges that Asfora performed operations using medical devices he invented and received kickbacks from other medical companies whose devices he used, and never disclosed the arrangement to patients.

Authorities say Asfora “received numerous warnings that he was performing medically unnecessary procedures,” which it termed as “excessive, quite aggressive and against conventional neurosurgical teaching and practice.” The doctor allegedly implanted the devices during complex spinal surgeries which should not have been performed. The complaint has warnings from Asfora’s own lawyers and other medical professionals that his behavior was illegal.

Asfora worked out of two Sioux Falls hospitals, Sanford Medical Center and the Sioux Falls Specialty Hospital. He sold the devices to the hospitals at enormous markups, meaning he made money for the surgeries he performed as well as the devices he used.

Sanford agreed to pay more than $20 million in penalties after the health system was accused of allowing Asfora to defraud the federal government out of millions of dollars.

Sanford reached an agreement with the federal government that will require it to hire an outside auditor to monitor the health system’s billing. The agreement allows Sanford to continue participating in Medicare and other federal programs, despite the claims against Asfora.


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