Patients settle stent claims against Midei, St. Joseph

Nearly 250 of the patients who accused cardiologist Dr. Mark Midei of performing unnecessary stent procedures at St. Joseph Medical Center settled their lawsuits against him Thursday, a major step forward in one of the largest medical malpractice cases in state history.

The agreement was announced in Baltimore County Circuit Court, where lawyers for Midei, the Towson hospital, its former owner and 21 of the patients have been making arguments for several weeks in the cardiologist's first civil trial.

"We have reached a global resolution," said Jay D. Miller, an attorney representing 247 former patients who filed suits against Midei and St. Joseph.

None of the parties would reveal the terms of the settlement.

The settlement could spare years of legal proceedings. Though Midei, St. Joseph and former owner Catholic Health Initiatives face other lawsuits, Miller and other lawyers working on the case said the deal represents significant progress toward resolving the legal troubles of the once highly regarded cardiologist.

Plaintiffs claimed Midei performed unnecessary stent procedures on them, leaving them with lasting medical complications, and that the hospital failed to provide sufficient oversight.

Midei has denied any wrongdoing. He was forced to leave the hospital, now called University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, after the allegations surfaced in 2009.

The accusations led to a federal investigation and a loss of staff and revenue at the hospital, which eventually was sold to the University of Maryland Medical System. The Maryland Board of Physicians revoked Midei's license in the state in 2011.

Michael J. Baxter, Midei's attorney, said in court that the cardiologist had tried to serve his patients well.

"He thought and believed in his heart that he was doing what was best for them and their health," Baxter said.

In the civil suits, plaintiffs accused Midei of overstating the seriousness of patients' conditions to justify the use of stents, a procedure that increased his pay.

Stents are mesh tubes that hold open blocked arteries to improve blood flow.

Officials with Catholic Health Initiatives confirmed the settlement. Neither they nor their attorney commented further.

Observers said Thursday's agreement would likely have little bearing on the remaining civil suits against Midei — Miller put their number at 45.

Greg Dolin, co-director of the Center for Medicine and Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, said the settlement could not be used as evidence in any potential future litigation.

Otherwise, he said, "no one would ever want to settle."

Andrew G. Slutkin, a Baltimore attorney who represented nearly 20 Midei patients who settled earlier, said he's rarely seen so much litigation surrounding a single doctor.

"I thought this case would settle at some point. There was significant risk on both sides. Settlements occur because the parties don't want to lose," he said. Trials are complicated and expensive, he added.

Midei is suing St. Joseph for defamation in a separate action now before the state's second-highest court.

Stephen L. Snyder, his attorney in that case, said he was disappointed Midei did not have the opportunity to speak during the trial that ended Thursday after three weeks. The proceeding had been expected to run three months.

"Why torture him with preparations … and then settle?" Snyder asked.

During the trial, Midei's attorneys said inserting the stents was a life-saving procedure for patients with cardiac problems.

The risks of not fixing a blockage, attorney David J. McManus said, outweighed the risks of the procedure.

But an attorney for the plaintiffs said they are suffering long-term complications from taking medications such as Plavix that generally are required after the procedure.

Attorney Gerry Mitchell said the experience had led many to distrust physicians.

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