St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, a hospital known and respected in no small measure for its cardiology department, is being accused of conduct that goes well beyond medical malpractice. The allegations are beyond stunning: at least 369 of St. Joseph’s heart patients have received coronary stents that were not medically necessary, putting these patients at greater risk of complication or further injury. People with minimal blockages were allegedly given stents and told they had near complete heart blockages.
Stents are used to fight artery blockages. St. Joseph Medical Center is a hospital that puts in a lot of stents. Many patients drive past University of Maryland Hospital and Johns Hopkins Hospital to get stents put in at St. Joseph’s. Think about how remarkable an accomplishment this was for St. Joe. Now, one doctor trying to earn a few extra bucks may have tarnished the reputation of a hospital and a lot of great work done by a lot of great doctors, nurses and other health care providers. Obviously, the biggest tragedy is the patients who have been subjected not only to an unnecessary heart procedure, but have likely also been over-medicated, as if their condition had been more serious. But I also feel bad for the good guys at St. Joseph who were not involved in any of this and are now tarnished by it all.
The doctor at the center of this scandal lost his privileges at the hospital last summer without notice to his patients or any comment from hospital officials. There is a lot of information that needs to come out, but this raises the obvious question: if hospital officials knew something was going on, why wait so long to convey this information to patients? If it is important for St. Joseph’s to tell patients now, why were patients not told this summer? I don’t want to prejudge this, but it is a question that is going to be raised.
Do these 369 patients have malpractice claims? I don’t think there is going to be significant injury in most of the cases. But you can certainly expect some valid claims to arise. Moreover, this is a a classic – and rare in the real world – case of a malpractice lawsuit that has a great settlement value than trial value. Because St. Joseph’s has to be eager to settle these claims and put this debacle behind them.
2014 Update: Most of these cases have settled? The doctor at the center of it all has lost his license to practice medicine. Now, these lawsuits are springing up all over the country. St. Joseph’s name was so besmirched from this debacle they sold out to University of Maryland. There were no winner.
- Unnecessary stent cases generally: cardiologists are giving a lot of patients stents where there is a blockage but stents are still not medically indicated. What kind of cases are there going to be as these cases span out around the country? What is the settlement value of these claims? Some of these cases have more value then they should. This post explains my thoughts on all of these things.