Suit Contends Heart Stent Unnecessary

January 23, 2010|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,brent.jones@baltsun.com

A Finksburg man is suing a former doctor at St. Joseph Medical Center, contending that the physician unnecessarily inserted a coronary implant in his heart.

Thomas Chaffee alleges that Mark G. Midei, who was one of the center's marquee physicians until he left the hospital last summer, placed two stents in his heart when he only needed one, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court. The suit comes less than a month after the Towson hospital alerted hundreds of its heart patients with stents that they might not have needed the expensive and potentially dangerous procedure.

It is believed to be the first lawsuit against Midei. He remains the only doctor implicated in an internal review initiated by the hospital at the behest of federal investigators after numerous patient complaints.

Coronary stents are cylindrical devices that can open arteries clogged with plaque or create a bridge across areas of damage. The hospital alerted more than 360 patients that stents may have been implanted in their arteries unnecessarily.

Chaffee's lawyer, H. Briggs Bedigian, said he believes the doctor and possibly the hospital were driven by money in recommending the procedure. The lawsuit alleges that St. Joseph had knowledge that Midei was negligently and fraudulently advising his patients to undergo the unnecessary stent procedures and failed to investigate.

Bedigian estimated that each stent costs close to $10,000 and says the hospital averages about 6,000 operations a year.

"There is no other reason to improperly place stents in people other than to derive financial benefit," Bedigian said.

Hospital officials say that they are aware of the suit and that by no longer employing Midei, St. Joseph has met its regulatory reporting obligations under state and federal laws.

St. Joseph's representatives say the initial examination of records spanned a three-year period and that an independent panel of board-certified cardiologists was retained to review a sample of patient records and films, which identified fewer than 50 patient cases for follow-up evaluation.

Midei stopped practicing and lost his privileges at the hospital without notice to his patients or any comment from hospital officials, who would not say if he was fired or if he resigned. He had previously said in a statement that he expects to be exonerated and to return to practice.

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