June 14, 2010

"Again, I don't know."

The case involves Dr. Lorne Semrau, a psychologist and owner of two corporations that provided mental health services to nursing-home patients. Accused of fraudulently billing the government, Dr. Semrau's attorneys sought to introduce "fMRI lie detector results" as evidence that he did not have intent to defraud.

We excerpt below two passages from the decision of Judge Tu M. Pham, both of which quote testimony of Dr. Stephen Laken, CEO of CEPHOS, the company that offers the "fMRI lie detection" services used by Dr. Semrau.

Our first excerpt concerns the question: What does it mean to pass a lie-detector test? If you think you know the answer, you may be surprised:
Q. All right. So in looking at the specific incident questions that Dr. Semrau was asked on scan number one, and I’m just reading from page 8 of your report, did you ever instruct SLCS FLCS billing employees to bill psychiatry services which had historically been billed by the corporation under CPT code 90862 under CPT code 99312, was he telling the truth when he answered that question?

A. I don’t know.

Q. Let me go to the second question. Did you ever tell the billing personnel of SLCS and FLCS that you had received instructions or guidance from Cigna Medicare provider services representatives to bill CPT code 99312? Was he telling the truth on that question?

A. Again, I don’t know.

Q. Okay. Just to save time, if I ask you the same question for all of those specific incident questions that were performed in scan one, could you tell me whether or not he was telling the truth as to any of those particular questions?

A. No.

Q. But your opinion was as to scan one he passed?

A. Correct.
So, Dr. Laken testified that Dr. Semrau passed the fMRI lie-detector test, but cannot state that he was telling the truth when answering any of the questions.

Our second except concerns the question: How is this lie-detector test supported by the published scientific literature? After noting that the the literature in this area reports on studies in individuals age 18 through 50 years, Judge Pham observes (in a footnote):
Dr. Semrau was 63 years old at the time he underwent testing by Dr. Laken. When asked by the government, “So the application of your technology to somebody who is 63 years old is unknown? Dr. Laken responded “Is unknown. That’s correct.”
So, Dr. Laken testified that Dr. Semrau, who is 63 years old, passed an fMRI lie-detector test, the application of which to a 63 year old person, he testified, "is unknown."

Dear NeuroCooking Friends, we would like to remind you: We are not attorneys; persons seeking legal advice should consult an appropriately credentialed member of their local state Bar; NeuroCooking cannot be a source of advice for any legal or financial matter. But if you're considering spending money on "fMRI lie detection" services, we say: Fuhgeddaboutit.

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