Here’s an interesting story out of Baltimore — a hospital admitted that one of its cardiologists unnecessarily placed stents in hundreds of heart patients. But now that some of those patients have retained lawyers, the hospital seems to be changing its story and may deny any negligence. At first thought you might say, so what if people got stents they didn’t really need. After all, a stent is a simple device designed to keep an artery open. But people who do have stents usually have to take expensive blood-thinning medication, and may run increased risk of clotting in the future.
The situation was described in detail in the Baltimore Sun, and is an eye-opener for anyone who might need to go to a cardiologist. Here are excerpts from the article:
St. Joseph Medical Center has repeatedly said it wants to do right by its coronary stent patients.
After a complaint last year that star cardiologist Mark Midei was placing stents in the arteries of patients who didn’t need them, the Towson hospital removed him from duty, reviewed thousands of medical records and sent letters to nearly 600 people whose stents appeared unnecessary, telling them to go see a doctor. When asked if the hospital bore any legal liability, CEO Jeffrey K. Norman replied: “I suppose we do.”
But now that the lawyers have arrived, bearing the threat of hundreds of lawsuits, some say the message has changed. Even as some St. Joseph employees continue to suggest wrongdoing — including its chief of cardiology, who has told at least two patients that his former colleague falsified their records — the hospital’s attorneys appear to be girding for a fight.
In its legal filings, the hospital said it “generally denies all allegations of liability.” And medical malpractice attorneys preparing cases against St. Joseph say hospital lawyers are gathering experts to argue that Midei did nothing improper, despite the hospital having revoked his practice privileges.
After complaints about Midei were lodged by a patient early last year, reviewers for the hospital looked at X-ray images from the medical files of his stent patients to determine if their arteries had enough blockage — generally at least 70 percent — to justify the procedure. In many cases, they concluded that Midei had recorded significantly more blockage in written records than was revealed in the films, leading officials to send those patients letters.
For some of Midei’s patients, even unnecessary stents might have improved their quality of life, at least for a time, by taking away heart pain caused by blockage that didn’t meet the 70 percent threshold, cardiac specialists say. But those patients also must live with an increased risk of sudden clotting and other complications, the need to take drugs they otherwise wouldn’t, and a general fear that something could go wrong at any point.