You don't have to be a doctor to be familiar with one of the main tenets of the Hippocratic Oath: Do no harm. That's one of the central issues of new medical malpractice lawsuits lodged against a handful of Baltimore County surgeons accused of performing unnecessary heart surgery on some patients.
In one of the lawsuits, patients of two surgeons claim they were misled about the extent of their need for mesh stents to widen blood vessels suffering from arterial blockages. The hospital where the surgeons practiced notified more than 500 patients that they may have had unnecessary stent surgeries. And there's concern among doctors, lawyers and legislators that the practice extended well beyond these cardiologists and their hospital.
The business of stent surgery is a lucrative one, which is why health care regulators and courts are concerned about wasteful spending and fraud. Although he hasn't been accused of any crimes, one of the doctors in the aforementioned lawsuit, a former chief of cardiology at a Baltimore County hospital, has more than 200 cases pending against him.
The malpractice cases must prove two points: that the doctor was negligent, and that the negligence caused harm. That might be difficult to prove because even if a patient's arterial blockage was exaggerated, it could be argued that the stent was still necessary. And even if it wasn't immediately necessary, a doctor could say that eventually it would have been, and that the patient simply received it earlier than they absolutely needed it.
The first 25 of the 200 cases against the former cardiology chief are scheduled to be heard in 2012. The outcome of those lawsuits could affect the verdicts of the rest of his cases, as well as those of the other latest surgeons to be accused. Of course, no two medical malpractice cases are exactly the same. Those who suspect they had unnecessary stent surgery will still be well within their rights to seek compensation if they were lied to for the sake of profit.
Source: Baltimore Business Journal, "New Midei cases ensnare three more stents doctors," Scott Dance, Dec. 15, 2011