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 allegedly received 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 the 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 outstanding work by a lot of exceptional 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 wonderful 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 will be raised.
Do these 369 patients have malpractice claims? I don’t think there will be significant injuries in most cases. But you can expect some valid claims to arise. This is a classic – and rare in the actual 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 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 the University of Maryland. There was no winner.