After news broke that Dr. Mark G. Midei may have performed hundreds of unnecessary stent procedures at St. Joseph Medical Center, a spokeswoman from Union Memorial Hospital assured the public such a thing could not happen at her hospital.
But a lawsuit filed last week alleges that, in at least one case, it did.
A. Donald C. Discepolo and Andrew J. Toland III, of Discepolo LLP, filed suit Thursday on behalf of Martha J. Phillips, who says Dr. John C. Wang inserted two stents in her left anterior descending artery unnecessarily and then falsified medical records to hide it.
While Midei became the subject of hundreds of lawsuits after an internal review by St. Joseph in Towson concluded that he may have implanted 585 stents unnecessarily, online court records show Phillips’ stent suit is the first filed against Wang, the chief of Union Memorial’s cardiac catheterization lab.
Union Memorial spokeswoman Debra Schindler told Baltimore Sun columnist Jay Hancock last year that her hospital had too much oversight to permit unnecessary stenting.
“I can tell you confidently that what happened over there couldn’t happen here,” Schindler was quoted as saying in the June 9, 2010, column. “Every one of our doctors gets checked — his records, his cases reviewed. Even our chief of the cath lab gets his records checked.”
Reached by phone Monday, Schindler said she could not comment on the pending litigation, but confirmed what she told Hancock.
“They do get checked,” she said. “We have a system in place where all cases are reviewed — his cases and all the other doctors cases. … I do stand by the process that we have here.”
Schindler said Wang had been at Union Memorial since 2004 and, to her knowledge, this is the first lawsuit against him.
But Jay D. Miller, of Miller Murtha & Psoras LLC in Lutherville, said it will likely not be the last.
Miller, who is handling 200-some suits against Midei, said that Wang previously worked at St. Joseph — where he and Midei were partners — and dozens of Wang’s patients are coming forward with similar claims of unnecessary stents.
“I actually have a number of cases against Dr. Wang,” Miller said by phone Monday. “I just haven’t filed them yet.”
Miller estimated he is reviewing 75 cases against Wang and expects to file about 50. He emailed The Daily Record a copy of a Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution claim he filed on behalf of John Bowers in June against Midei, Wang and a third member of MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates P.A., Dr. Kourosh Mastali. All practiced at St. Joseph between 2005 and 2007, when Bowers received three stents. Wang performed the August 2005 operation, Bowers alleges.
In a joint statement emailed Monday, Discepolo and Toland said Phillips’ case is distinct.
“A review by a board-certified interventional cardiologist of our client’s chart and catheterization films revealed that Dr. Wang placed stents in our client that were not clinically indicated or medically necessary,” the statement reads. “While we are aware of Dr. Wang’s prior connections with Dr. Midei and Mid-Atlantic Cardiovascular, this lawsuit is based entirely on the merits of this single procedure.”
Left side all right
Phillips alleges that she went to Union Memorial in May 2006 for a cardiac catheterization, a procedure in which a doctor inserts a tube into a leg vein or artery and then advances it to the heart to check for blockages.
According to the suit, the catheterization, which was performed by doctors other than Wang, revealed blockages in Phillips’ right coronary artery and stents were inserted there to keep the artery open.
But the catheterization allegedly revealed no blockages in her left anterior descending artery.
When Phillips continued suffering chest pain, the suit states, she returned to Union Memorial in September 2006 and Wang inserted two stents into her left anterior descending artery, or LAD, which had been declared clear five months earlier, according to the suit.
The suit states that hospital officials then conspired with Wang to cover up the unnecessary procedure.
“The Defendants subsequently created a false medial [sic] record that stated that the stents [were] necessary because of high grade 70 percent stenosis in the Plaintiff’s LAD,” it states.
When allegations surfaced of unnecessary stents at St. Joseph, Phillips contacted Union Memorial to get copies of her catheterization and stent records, according to the suit. But she allegedly was denied access to them by Stuart B. Bell, the hospital’s vice president of medical affairs.
Bell, the suit states, told Phillips that the records from both the May and September 2006 catheterizations had been reviewed and both indicated blockages in her LAD.
Phillips “was under the false impression, caused by the misconduct and fraud of the Defendants, that she had a severe obstruction of her LAD and that the cardiac stents placed by Defendants during Dr. Wang’s procedure was clinically indicated and medically necessary,” the suit states.
Wang and Union Memorial are named as defendants in Phillips’ suit. The complaint has seven counts, including negligence, battery, intentional misrepresentation and lack of informed consent. She is seeking in excess of $30,000 on each count.
Stent procedures can cause serious complications, require patients to take blood-thinning medication and, according to Miller, cost about $10,000 each. Miller said other doctors besides Midei and Wang were likely to be sued for implanting stents unnecessarily.
“I don’t think we’re going to find it quite to the magnitude we have here,” he said. “But I do think there were other doctors who were doing it.”