St. Joseph’s Scandal

saint joseph medical center scandalSt. 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 Stent Allegations

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 were told they had near-complete heart blockages.

Stents are small, expandable tubes typically made of metal or plastic that are used in various medical procedures to open narrowed or blocked arteries or other tubular structures in the body. They are commonly used in cardiology to treat coronary artery disease and in other medical specialties to address issues like narrowing of the esophagus or urinary tract.

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 healthcare 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.

Doctor Lost Privileges

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 greater settlement value than trial value. Because St. Joseph’s has to be eager to settle and put this debacle behind them.

What Happened After This Post?

In 2011, Dr. Midei had his medical license permanently revoked by the Maryland State Board of Physicians due to multiple ethical violations, which included performing unnecessary medical procedures and making incorrect diagnoses.

In 2012, St. Joseph’s Hospital reached a $22 million settlement with the federal government to address allegations that it had violated the False Claims Act by providing incentives to doctors in exchange for patient referrals for stent procedures.

In 2013, St. Joseph’s Hospital agreed to a $37 million settlement with hundreds of patients who had filed lawsuits. These patients alleged that Dr. Midei had performed stent procedures on them that were medically unnecessary.

By 2014, most of these cases have been settled.  .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.

Unnecessary Stent Cases in 2023

These unnecessary stent malpractice lawsuits continue in 2023 and there is new research that suggests stents are less helpful than we hoped.   The financial incentives to put in stents is still very strong.

Common Allegations in Unnecessary Stent Lawsuits

  1. Medical Malpractice: Plaintiffs in these lawsuits often claim that the healthcare provider, typically a cardiologist, was negligent in diagnosing and treating their cardiac condition. They argue that the stent procedure was not warranted based on their medical condition and that the physician should have pursued alternative treatments or approaches.
  2. Informed Consent: Patients may also claim that they were not adequately informed about the risks, benefits, and alternatives to the stent procedure, making it difficult for them to provide informed consent.
  3. Financial Motivations: In some cases, plaintiffs allege that healthcare providers had financial motivations for performing unnecessary stent procedures. This can involve allegations of kickbacks, incentives, or fraudulent billing practices.
  4. Patient Harm: Patients may suffer physical and emotional harm as a result of unnecessary stent procedures, including complications related to the stent itself or the procedure, as well as the financial burden of medical bills.

The Lown Institute’s Hospital Index, a think tank that evaluates hospitals on social responsibility criteria, has found that 20% of coronary stents implanted from 2019 to 2021 were not essential for enhancing patient health. These findings appeared in the October 31, 2023 report titled “Avoiding Overuse: Coronary Stents.”

Why Damages Are Usually Low in Unnecessary Stent Lawsuits

The most viable cases are an unnecessary stent procedure that result in complications that lead to a patient’s death or serious injury.  Because in the lion’s share of these cases, the patient did not suffer severe physical harm or life-threatening complications directly related to the stent procedure itself.

While the unnecessary procedure can be distressing and may lead to complications, such as infection or bleeding, these cases may not involve the same level of physical harm as other medical malpractice cases, such as surgical errors or birth injuries.

Contact Information