Cardiologist sues hospital over stent allegations

Mark Midei says his reputation was destroyed

October 21, 2010|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

Cardiologist Mark G. Midei, accused of performing unnecessary heart procedures on patients at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, filed a fraud lawsuit Thursday against the hospital and its parent organization, Catholic Health Initiatives, alleging they inflicted "irreparable damage" to his career through a "campaign of corporate deception, trickery and fraud."

It's Midei's first public pushback since he was removed from duty last year. Since then, dozens of legal claims have been filed against him, and a physician oversight board has filed professional charges that could revoke his medical license.

But Midei, who helped build St. Joseph's reputation as a top heart center, says the allegations are unfounded and false. He was made into a "decoy," the lawsuit alleges, by administrators desperate to deflect the attention of federal regulators investigating the hospital's relationship with Midei's former employer.

The four-count lawsuit seeks $60 million in compensatory damages and could ask for up to $540 million in punitive damages.

"For the past eighteen months, SJMC has been affirmatively, yet falsely, reporting to the public and Dr. Midei's patients that Dr. Midei surgically inserted unnecessary stents," states the 50-page document, filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court. "This lawsuit will set the record straight. Dr. Midei is not the villain as portrayed by SJMC."

St. Joseph officials said they could not "address the specifics" of the lawsuit, but that the hospital plans to "vigorously defend itself." Representatives have previously said that hospital actions were appropriate and based on a review of Midei's clinical practice, which was spurred by a patient complaint.

Midei's harshly worded lawsuit, filed by Pikesville lawyer Stephen L. Snyder, tells another side of the story, alleging corporate greed, backstabbing and revenge.

At its core are nearly 600 letters that St. Joseph sent to Midei's former patients after a limited review of patient records. The letters warned that the patients may not have needed the tiny tubular stents that Midei, 53, placed in their arteries to improve blood flow.

St. Joseph officials said Thursday that the medical center was "guided by a belief that it had a moral and ethical responsibility to put patients' interests first." They've previously said that the letters were sent for "clinical reasons" and were not to be taken as a "definitive determination that a stent was unnecessary."

But the damage is done, according to the lawsuit. Those letters ruined Midei, it claims, and stripped the medical community of a skilled cardiologist.

Snyder and Midei, his wife at his side, held a news conference Thursday morning to announce the lawsuit.

"I can promise every one of my patients that what I did [in treating them] was what I would want for myself, for anybody in my family," Midei said. "They were treated appropriately and with the highest regard for their well-being, and I'm confident in everything that I've done, every decision that I've made."

He said that the past year and a half had been "very difficult and very challenging" for him and his family, and that he hopes to practice medicine again, though he doesn't know if it will be possible.

"This has followed me around the globe," Midei said, referring to the allegations.

Stents and related heart procedures earned an average of $81 million annually for St. Joseph, which aggressively recruited Midei as a full-time employee with a seven-figure salary two years ago.

He had already worked in the hospital for years on a contract basis through MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates, which he helped found in the early 1990s. That business grew into the region's premier cardiology practice, with members providing services at hospitals throughout Maryland, including St. Joseph, where Midei ran the cardiac catheterization lab.

The MidAtlantic practice controlled 70 percent of the business at St. Joseph's Heart Institute, according to an unrelated court filing, and Midei was one of its stars. His work helped attract the interest of MedStar Health, which owns Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, a major competitor for St. Joseph.

MedStar proposed a $25 million merger with MidAtlantic contingent on Midei's employment. But St. Joseph hired him and another doctor, who's now their chief of cardiology, before the deal could be done.

The move scuttled the MedStar deal and prompted a lawsuit against Midei and St. Joseph by MidAtlantic, whose former chief executive also vowed to "spend the rest of [his] life trying to destroy [Midei] personally and professionally."

The executive later expressed regret for those comments in a deposition, and the lawsuit was dismissed last year. By then, however, federal regulators had begun investigating MidAtlantic's relationship with St. Joseph.

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