KDMC, Paulus named in civil suit

Published 9:43 am Thursday, October 10, 2013


Complaint alleges negligence, fraud in heart stent surgeries


ASHLAND, Ky. — A Chesapeake man has filed a civil lawsuit against King’s Daughters Medical Center and Dr. Richard E. Paulus, alleging the doctor knew the stent procedures he performed on the man were unnecessary and harmful.

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The 17-page complaint was filed Sept. 30 in Boyd County, Ky., Circuit Court and comes about two years after the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into cardiac stent procedures performed by physicians at KDMC.

At the center of the lawsuit is Robert Huron, 50, who claimed Paulus and KDMC “dramatically misrepresented the extent of coronary artery stenosis in order to justify performance of (percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty) with stenting.”

Dr. Phil Fioret, chief medical officer at KDMC, would not comment regarding the lawsuit directly, but issued a written statement about the DOJ investigation.

“KDMC has been transparent in its communications with its patients, its medical staff and the community about the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into cardiac stent procedures performed by physicians at KDMC,” Fioret said. “We take this matter very seriously and since 2011, much of KDMC’s financial resources have gone to its efforts to cooperate with the government’s investigation. While the government’s review is continuing, it is not surprising that civil lawsuits would be filed related to these same issues. As with any investigation and litigation matters, KDMC cannot comment on the specifics of any of these matters no matter how much we would like to.”

According to the civil suit, Huron was given multiple stents between 2006 and 2011 that were allegedly unnecessary.

As a result of the surgeries, Huron alleges he is allergic to the polymers in the stents and he will “now and in the future continue to suffer from allergic reactions to the polymers and is in a constant state of anaphylaxis,” as well as be “indefinitely required to take medication that carries life threatening risks, is subject to life-threatening allergic reactions, is now and will always be at risk for future stent thrombosis as well as stent re-stenosis …”

“The ideal result would have been for Mr. Huron and hundreds of other people to not have unnecessary medical devices placed in their bodies that require them to be on a constant medication regimen and be constantly at risk for future complications as a result of unnecessary procedures,” Hans Poppe, Louisville, Ky.-based attorney representing Huron, said. “There is no ideal resolution. The most we could hope for is for the hospital and the medical providers to acknowledge what happened there and to put in place policies and procedures that will ensure the hospital and the physicians practicing there don’t put profits above patient safety in the future.”

According Fioret’s statement, KDMC continues to put patients’ needs first.

“KDMC is here for patient care and service to the community,” Fioret said. “We are working hard to keep focused on this fact while the legal issues are being addressed. The safety of our patients and the provision of exceptional care to our community will always be our first priorities.

“To that end, KDMC has been working with Dr. Bonnie Weiner at the Accreditation of Cardiac Excellence (ACE), a nationally recognized peer review organization of cardiac catheterization services. ACE has worked with us to proactively provide enhanced oversight of our cardiac services as well as to facilitate implementation of state of the art processes. As a physician, I am confident in the cardiology services that our hospital continues to provide and I believe KDMC has taken every necessary measure to ensure outstanding quality patient care”

Likewise, Robert S. Bennett, Washington, D.C.-based attorney representing Paulus in the federal investigation, said the physician would never perform unnecessary procedures.

“We are hopeful at the completion of the investigation the prosecutors will see they have no case,” Bennett said. “Should they unfortunately bring one, we will vigorously contest it. Dr. Paulus is a wonderful doctor, loved by his patients, who would never insert a stent that was not appropriate.”

Paulus, 66, retired from KDMC in August after 20 years with the hospital. KDMC also named its heart center after the physician in 2006 — the Richard E. Paulus Pavilion Heart and Vascular Center.

According to the civil complaint, from 2006-2011, KDMC performed more angioplasty stent procedures than any other hospital in Kentucky.

An answer to the civil complaint has not yet been filed.