Healthcare News & Insights

Doc says he was fired for refusing to use wrong stents

Here’s a situation no hospital exec wants crossing his or her desk:

A cardiologist at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, MA, has filed a lawsuit alleging he was fired because he resisted pressure from other docs to use Medtronic stents. The suit raises several serious ethical issues that can crop up in any hospital or practice.

The allegations

The doctor in question, David Grossman, says other cardiologists wanted to increase use of the Medtronic stents in the belief that it would improve the hospital’s odds of being selected for an upcoming clinical trial Medtronic was preparing for heart valve patients. Grossman claims the Medtronic stents are “suboptimal” and aren’t the best choice for all patients.

In his suit, he argues that part of the pressure to use Medtronic stents came from other cardiologists, including one who happens to be married to a Medtronic sales rep. (According to the hospital, the spouse does not service Lahey, and that cardiologist recused himself from purchasing decisions that involved Medtronic products.) He also claims that a Medtronic sales rep told doctors that if they increased use of the company’s products, they would have access to the cardiac valve product clinical trials.

Grossman raised his concerns multiple times in meetings, but didn’t feel they were properly addressed. He claims in his suit that the hospital violated state whistleblower laws by firing him.

For its part, Lahey says Grossman was fired for unspecified misconduct and that his allegations have no merit. (Click here to see more details of the case.)

Medtronic didn’t comment directly on the lawsuit, but said its process for selecting clinical trial sites is designed to be objective and is not contingent on purchasing habits.

The fall out

It’s far too soon to take a guess at how this court case will pan out, but the pressures at the heart of it — physicians’ discretion to treat patients the way they see fit and the sometimes desperate search for additional resources, patients, etc. — are something most health care organizations deal with every day.

One clear lesson: Without a process in place for doctors to air their concerns, conflicts like this one can fester and get ugly fast.

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