Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has settled a lawsuit that alleged some of the facility’s orthopedic surgeons engaged in overlapping surgeries that were in violation of federal and state rules that regulate Medicaid.
The federal whistleblower case brought against MGH, which serves as the clinical teaching arm for Harvard Medical School, was filed by anesthesiologist Lisa Wollman, MD, according to Guttman, Buschner & Brooks, the law firm that represented her. MGH will pay $14.6 million to the federal government and state of Massachusetts and change its informed consent language to better apprise patients of when their surgeon has an overlapping surgical obligation.
Dr. Wollman’s attorney Reuben Guttman says Dr. Wollman filed the suit because she was concerned about patient care and safety. She alleged that teaching surgeons weren’t present for crucial portions of some surgeries or didn’t wait until the crucial portions were complete before beginning a second surgery. In some cases, she claimed another surgeon wasn’t immediately available to potentially assist in the non-crucial portions of cases after the primary surgeon left. Additionally, the suit contended the hospital’s Medicaid bills for anesthesia were excessive and its informed consent forms inadequately addressed the overlapping surgery issue.
As part of the settlement, MGH will add language to a standardized consent form that informs patients their scheduled surgery will overlap with another procedure. The form notes their surgeon will be present for critical stages of the surgery, but might not be in the operating room for the entire case. It also informs patients that their surgeon or another qualified surgeon will be immediately available if an urgent need arises during the surgery.
Mr. Guttman believes the outcome will improve patient care and transparency. “The lawsuit was a catalyst for an important dialogue that will cause a world-renowned institution to set a precedent for a new standard of care in informed consent for overlapping surgeries,” he says.
MGH officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.Adam Taylor