After undergoing more than two dozen cardiac procedures over a period of twenty years at St. Joseph Hospital in London, Kentucky, a patient was told by an outside cardiologist in Lexington that a recent procedure had been performed unnecessarily on an artery that was barely blocked.
“I would have not carried out this procedure,” the cardiologist, Michael R. Jones, wrote in a letter to the patient. The story is recounted in an article published on Sunday in USA Today and the Louisville Courier-Journal, about the latest and perhaps the biggest case yet to surface over unnecessary cardiac procedures.
Comment: By sheer coincidence, on the same day, the New York Times published a news analysis by Barry Meier about the scandal over Johnson & Johnson’s hip implant. “Doctors Who Don’t Speak Out” focuses on the failure of physicians to report problems with devices and drugs, but clearly the issue has even larger implications. A quote from Harlan Krumholz in the story– “Questioning the status quo in medicine is not easy”– could easily apply to the many recent cases of egregious overuse of cardiac procedures and devices. Imagine how recent history might have been different if colleagues of Sandesh Patil and Mark Midei had raised earlier questions about borderline procedures. Cardiologists and other physicians complain about the intrusive and burdensome role played by the legal system, regulators, and insurance companies, but they have only themselves to blame if they refuse to police their own ranks, and indeed tacitly participate in a system that provides lucrative compensation to high-volume proceduralists.