We trust our doctors with our lives. If a trusted cardiologist tells a patient that they will need a pacemaker or defibrillator implanted, the patient will likely believe the surgery is necessary to save their life. Heart surgery can be a frightening experience, associated with many risks and complications. However, for hundreds of patients in Indiana, they later found that their heart surgery may have been unnecessary and was done only for profit.
Dr. Arvind Gandhi and others at Cardiology Associates of Northwest Indiana are facing malpractice lawsuits from almost 300 former patients. So far, at least 290 patients have been identified as possibly receiving unnecessary procedures and operations in Munster, Indiana. The doctors are accused of altering the patients' medical records to make it look like they needed the cardiac devices.
In one of the first cases to go to trial against Gandhi, the jury awarded a widow $450,000 for the death of her husband who was treated by the doctor. Ken Greer originally went to Dr. Gandhi to have the battery in his pacemaker changed out. However, the procedure resulted in an infection, and he had to return to Dr. Gandhi.
Gandhi took out the pacemaker, rinsed it with antibiotics and reinserted the device, against the recommendations of the American Heart Association. The infection did not go away. He returned to have another procedure to get rid of the infection. However, after he was discharged, he collapsed and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs believe that the hospital was working together with the doctors, prioritizing profits over patients. According to a ProPublica investigation, the three top Medicare-billing cardiologists in Indiana in 2012 were Gandhi, and his two associates, Dr. Satyaprakash Makam and Dr. Wail Asfour. Together, they billed Medicare $5.2 million in a single year.
The average cardiologist in Indiana billed Medicare an average of $170 per patient in 2012. Gandhi billed an average of $945 per patient for four times the average number of services per patient.
Dr. Mark Dixon, the former medical director of Community Hospital's electrophysiology lab first raised questions about Gandhi's practices in 2005 when he questioned whether Dr. Gandhi and the other doctors were qualified to implant the defibrillators. His concerns were swept aside. He was later told to stop reviewing implants that were performed at the hospital.
In 2015, Gandhi retired from the practice of medicine. However, he and his associates still face almost 300 medical malpractice complaints. The two latest cases have passed the medical review panels and are scheduled for trial in early 2017. More than 150 other cases are awaiting medical panel review. In addition, the U.S. attorney's office and Medicaid have begun investigations into Gandhi's practices.