The Clinical Advisor reported recently on the end of a high-profile medical malpractice case that made headlines across the country. The situation involved a cardiologist who was accused of performing a mountain of unnecessary surgical procedure to implant stents into patient hearts. The patients agreed to the surgeries while assuming that they were necessary per the doctor’s recommendations. However, it was eventually learned that many of those stents may not have been medically necessary--the doctor was only urging them because of his financial interest in performing the operation.
The doctor, and owner of a medical clinic in Maryland, was accused of performing the hundreds of unnecessary stent procedures over a two year period--between 2007 and 2009. Eventually the doctor’s medical license was revoked for his conduct. However, it has taken the remaining years for the civil lawsuits filed in connection with the matter to make their way through the system.
Six weeks ago, the matter began at trial. Most trials do not necessarily go that long, but considering the number of patients affected, the length of the problem, and the complexity of proving this sort of malpractice, a large amount of information needed to be presented to the jury.
Interestingly, just this week, even after the lengthy trial was already well underway, the matter was abruptly ended with a settlement. As is frequently the case, the terms of the settlement are confidential, and it is not known how much the matter was settled for. What is known is that it resolves the claims for at least 250 patients who had individually filed suit against the doctor and a hospital where he worked. That is not the end to the matter, however, as there remain at least 45 other lawsuits still pending which are connected to these same claims.
Unnecessary Surgery Malpractice
This particular case has garnered significant attention both because of the number of affected patients as well as because of the unique nature of the alleged malpractice. Of course, errors like failing to provide a timely diagnosis or committing a medication mistake are what most normally think of when the words “medical malpractice” is mentioned. Far fewer appreciate that something like ordering a surgery that isn’t needed can also constitute malpractice.
One need only return to the fundamental principles of negligence to understand how it works. A party can be held liable in a civil court when they owe a duty of care (this always is true in a doctor-patient relationship), and breach that duty while causing injury. The breach occurs when the doctor does not act in a reasonable way when compared with other prudent doctors in the area. Ordering a surgery that isn’t needed is therefore a breach. One complexity in these cases is meeting the final elements of “causing injury.” If the stent does not lead to obvious damage, is there harm? The answer is usually yes, because any surgery comes with risks and potential problems down the road. Even opening oneself up to future injury unnecessarily is an “injury” that can be compensated via civil lawsuit.
For assistance with any medical malpractice matters in Chicago or throughout Illinois, please contact the IL malpractice attorneys at our firm for help.
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