Medical ‘racket’: French doctor suspended for extorting migrants for money

© Regis Duvignau
French authorities are investigating a Parisian doctor accused of repeatedly charging migrants hefty fees for forged medical certificates that would guarantee approval of their residence applications.

A hepatologist from the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris, who supposedly issued fake medical certificates for foreigners, was suspended from his office “as a precaution” on May 10, the city’s public hospital system AP-HP announced, according to Le Parisien newspaper.

“This case is just the tip of it. We found that many doctors were engaged in racket schemes with migrants. They ask them to pay hundreds of euros for medical certificates so that they could qualify for residence,” said Laura Petersell of La Cimade, a French NGO that was first to detect the irregularities.

An internal investigation initiated by the French Health Ministry has confirmed that similar violations were detected beyond the Pitie-Salpetriere.

La Cimade has already collected “numerous testimonies” from migrants who became a part of the bribery scandal, Petersell added, giving an example of a Cameroonian who needed to have his residence permit renewed. A physician office visit ended with a €90 bill (over $100), though the doctor only took the weight and blood pressure.

“This is a very large sum for me. I was very surprised,” the man said, according to Le Parisien.

Under social welfare programs that came into force in 2000, foreigners constantly residing in France are usually covered with AME (medical aid from the state) or CMU (universal health coverage). In some cases medical certificates enable foreigners to apply for residence in France due to health issues.

“There are no excess fees to be charged to vulnerable patients under the CMU,” and “such failures justify disciplinary proceedings,” said Dr. Jean-Marie Faroudja, president of the Ethics committee of France's Medical Association, adding that these incidents are “unacceptable.”