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Dozens of unnecessary surgeries performed by doctors at hospital chain

Surgery can certainly help to alleviate some medical conditions and improve health. Although any surgery is risky, patient-doctor relationships built on trust help Chicago patients feel more comfortable with their doctors' recommendations. After recuperating from surgery, most people are glad that they followed their doctor's medical advice.

However, sometimes patients are advised to undergo an unnecessary surgery, which could harm them. In recent years, numerous hospital negligence cases have been exposed throughout the U.S. Some hospitals have gained substantial profits for performing unnecessary surgeries at the expense of patients.

At one particular hospital chain, hundreds of cases of unnecessary heart catheterization procedures are alleged to have taken place over the past decade, and are currently being investigated by a U.S. Attorney General's office. The hospital chain owns over 160 hospitals throughout the country, and over 100 catheterization labs.

In one case, a nurse was fired after sending a letter to the chief ethics officer of the hospital alleging that a doctor performed an unnecessary cardiac catheterization. Although catheterization is typically only done when there is a blockage of 70 percent or greater, the records show that the patient had no artery blockages whatsoever. The claim was substantiated, but the nurse was fired for making this complaint and raising awareness of the patient safety issue.

The hospital chain in question was found guilty of fraud for overbilling Medicare in 2000, and was ordered to pay a $1.7 billion fine by the Department of Justice. The hospital also was mandated to follow a corporate integrity agreement for eight years.

When hospital chain executives and independent consultants performed quality control reviews, they uncovered cases that were even more alarming. These include hundreds of cases of doctors falsifying records in order to justify surgical procedures, and other cases in which doctors could not justify procedures that had already been performed.

Source: New York Times, "Hospital Chain Inquiry Cited Unnecessary Cardiac Work," Reed Abelson and July Creswell, August 6, 2012.

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