When a patient undergoes an operation, the least of their worries is that the operation is necessary for their health. A level of trust exists between the patient and their caregiver in that the caregiver's role is to provide recommendations that will enhance the patient's quality of life. However, recently, it appears that money by way of incentives, clouded a physician's judgment when it came to recommending surgical procedures.
The plaintiff, Kevin Wells, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against St. Joseph Health System in London, Kentucky, and its parent company, Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) alleging that his doctor unnecessarily implanted a pacemaker. At trial, Mr. Wells alleged that the hospital formed a joint venture with local cardiologists where the doctors would be provided incentives if they performed certain procedures and, in doing so, the hospital failed to put in any safeguards to ensure the procedures were necessary.
Mr. Wells' counsel provided evidence to the court that indicated that the company anticipated making over $90 million over the next three years from heart procedures and that bonus incentives were given based on productivity and revenue.
The hospital countered the plaintiff's claims, arguing that:
- the pacemaker procedure was necessary;
- Mr. Wells' doctor, Dr. Chalhoub, acted on his own and was not the responsibility of the hospital; and
- Doctors make their own medical decisions.
The jury sided with the plaintiff and $21.2 million in damages, including $20 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages differ from actual damages in that they are intended to punish the defendant for actual malice.
In addition to the civil trial, the doctor who implanted the device recently went through criminal proceedings. Dr. Anis Chalhoub, who implanted the pacemaker in Wells, was indicted in June on criminal fraud charges of implanting the devices into multiple patients without sufficient need or justification.
So as not to incite bias, the jury in the Mr. Wells' case was not told about the criminal indictment.
Since the jury trial concluded, top executives have been laid off at KentuckyOne Health. KentuckyOne was formed in 2012 by the merger of Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare and St. Joseph Health System of Lexington. Executives let go include:
- Dr. Damian 'Alagia, senior vice president, and chief physician executive
- Randy Napier, president of Frazier Rehab Institute and Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital
- Michael Spine, senior vice president of strategy and business development
Medical malpractice can have devastating effects that last a lifetime. If you have been injured by a physician's neglect, attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Call 800-529-6162 today or contact them online for a free case evaluation. They handle cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.