Largest Network of Hospitals Allegedly Performed Unnecessary Cardiac Surgeries


December 15, 2012

While there are many forms of medical malpractice that may be committed in a Georgia hospital, one that people may be unaware of involves medical procedures and surgeries that are not medically necessary. These medically unjustified procedures even extend to such serious and potentially life-threatening procedures as heart surgeries.

A former nurse at the largest private hospital network – Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) – sent a letter to the chief ethics officer that alleged multiple doctors in the network had performed heart surgeries that were not medically necessary according to a New York Times report.

An investigation of the allegations against the hospital chain revealed that the heart operations were conducted from 2002 until 2010. While the researchers were not able to quantify the precise number of unjustified heart procedures that were performed, they did conclude the problem involved more than just a couple of rogue doctors. The Times article suggests that the motivation behind the unnecessary medical procedures is financial gain. Medicare provides reimbursement of $10,000 per operation for the cardiac procedures.

HCA is denying the allegations and indicates that eighty percent of its 163 hospitals and 110 independent surgical centers in the U.S. and England are in the top 10 percent of government quality rankings. Because our health care compensation system functions on a pay-per-service model, there is a financial incentive for medical care providers to provide more services when less extensive or costly procedures might prove sufficient.

Examples of medical procedures that were overused according to the report included heart intervention procedures, such as implantable cardio-defibrillators, diagnostic catheterization and stents. The cardiac catheterization involves inserting a tube into a vessel or chamber of the heart while a stint involves implanting a small tube inside an artery to increase blood flow and strengthen the artery. Because these procedures carry significant medical risks, it is important that the medical benefits outweigh the risks. Further, the physician has an obligation to ensure that the patient is advised of these risks so that the patient can provide informed consent before undergoing these procedures.

The Times report also indicates that this type of practice is so common that it is referred to in medical journals as “Oculostenotic reflex.” The term refers to the tendency of interventional cardiologists to expand coronary arteries through surgery even when medical evidence supports the use of less invasive and costly treatment methods like taking medication. This means that while medication may be an effective approach to address the cardiac condition, medical professionals have a financial incentive to perform more costly procedures.

This form of medical malpractice is especially troubling because it not only exposes patients to medically invasive and unnecessary procedures, but it also may result in serious injury or fatalities. Our Georgia medical malpractice attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.


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