A multi-millionaire dentist in France has been jailed for deliberately mutilating patients from low-income neighborhoods of Marseille, in a money-making scheme in which he performed thousands of unnecessary procedures.
Lionel Guedj, 41, was jailed for eight years and his father, Carnot Guedj, 70, who worked part-time for him, was jailed for five years after a court heard harrowing accounts of patients who had booked an appointment for minor issues, such as a cavity or loose crown, and ended up having scores of healthy teeth removed for no medical reason.
The state prosecution team described how Lionel Guedj deliberately harmed healthy patients from the northern quarters of Marseille in order to defraud the social security system. He sought to make maximum profits by forcing unsuspecting patients to undergo unnecessary procedures, showing “total disdain” for their health and then reaping payments from social security.
In one example, between 2006 and 2012, Guedj was accused of performing 3,900 root canals on 327 patients who had no medical need for the procedure, simply because he wanted to fit bridges that would make him money. Dental procedures that normally took 45 minutes to an hour were performed by Guedj in about 10 minutes – many of them resulting in infections, complications or permanent damage.
Such was Guedj’s “industrial” approach, squeezing the maximum number of procedures into the minimum time, that in 2010 he became the highest-earning dental surgeon in France, making up to €2.9m (£2.5m) in fees. He used it to purchase property, paintings and luxury cars.
There were gasps of horror during the six-week trial when poor and vulnerable residents of the southern city described how Guedj initially put them at ease before quickly pulling out healthy teeth or mutilating them before the patients knew what he was doing. When infections ensued, he prescribed large amounts of antibiotics.
One woman described going to him, aged 18, for a minor tooth enamel issue. He pulled out 24 of his healthy teeth without properly disinfecting the roots. She said that since then: “I have pain 24 hours a day … My life is on standby.” She said she hid away from society and felt shame. “You want to crawl into a hole and never come out again, even to work.”
Guedj often said he would give people a Hollywood smile. But one 50-year-old coach driver said the dentist had filed down so much that he was left with “mice’s teeth”.
One woman said the constant foul odor from her mouth after repeated infections meant she gave up her job serving in a bakery and avoided opening her mouth around other people. Another man who suffered a series of tooth extractions said he couldn’t afford to have his teeth redone and his life had been seriously affected. “I can’t eat properly … I don’t laugh like I did before.”