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More Doctors Caught in Unnecessary Heart Stent Scandal

Last year we reported on the case of one formerly high-profile cardiologist who was hit with a string of medical malpractice claims suggesting he implanted potentially hundreds of heart stents unnecessarily. Now, according to a new Biz Journal Report, a few fellow cardiologists in the same hospital have also been hit with medical malpractice lawsuits claiming that heart surgeries were performed on patients who didn’t need them. Expectedly, money is alleged to the motive behind the unneeded surgeries being performed.

All told there have been over two hundred lawsuits filed against the original doctor as well as a few other cardiologists who worked with him. Virtually all of the suits allege that the patient involved were mislead about the actual extent of arterial blockages in their heart. Based on that skewed information, the patients agreed to undergo the risky heart stent implantation surgery which widens the blood vessels in the heart with mesh stents. Previously, it was known that the problem may have extended from those who received the stents between 2007 and 2009. The involved hospital sent a letter to more than 500 patients in 2010 explaining the situation and letting them know that their surgery may have been unnecessary. However, this latest round of lawsuits involves clients who had the surgery performed well before 2007, suggesting that the problem may have been far more widespread than previously believed.

The first round of 25 cases are set to go to trial sometime next year. Some of the cases involve explicit allegations that the doctors intentionally exaggerated artery blockage claims in order to convince patients to have the surgery. Generally, the stent procedure is necessary when the patient’s has an artery that is at least 70% blocked. However, the lawsuits will only be successful if the lawyers can prove that the exaggeration led to actual implantation of a stent that otherwise would not have been implemented. Also, actual harm must be shown, because if a patient actually benefitted from the procedure then there would be no damages awarded. However, the increased risk of complications, pain, suffering, and other intangible factors would play into the damage award.

The latest suits also suggest that the problem may have extended beyond the original cardiologist implicated in the scandal. Every Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm knows that the problem of medical financial incentives influencing medical care exists across the country. For example, last July another doctor was criminally convicted of health care fraud for unnecessary heart stent procedures. The motivation in the case was the lucrative nature of the stent surgery business.

These medical malpractices cases related to unnecessary procedures are a bit unique, and much different than what many think about when they allege medical negligence. For one thing, many of these cases involve intentional misconduct. It is a different degree of culpability for a medical professional to knowingly do something not in a patient’s best medical interest specifically because he or she stands to gain financial for doing so. This form of recklessness can never be tolerated. Hopefully these high-profile cases spur more federal crackdowns and these unnecessary actions.

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