In an attempt to advance the medical field, a world-renowned heart surgeon stands accused of violating ethical rules and harming patients, according to a groundbreaking report by ProPublica. The heart doctor, O.H. “Bud” Frazier, is credited with saving thousands of lives in his obsessive, career-long drive to create an artificial heart. However, to reach his admittedly noble goal he skirted ethical guidelines, defrauded Medicare, and harmed patients in an attempt to advance his research. Perhaps most disturbingly, his clinic, Texas Heart in Houston, along with several other doctors on the staff, apparently knew of Dr. Frazier’s ethical lapses and proceeded to either do nothing or actively hide the illegal and immoral behavior, according to the newspaper’s expose.
According to ProPublica, Dr. Frazier, who quit performing surgeries last year when he turned 75, is accused of the following:
- Inappropriately diagnosing patients with advanced stage heart failure, in an attempt to install experimental heart pumps in the patients. According to hospital records viewed by the newspaper, an internal investigation made the Board of Directors at St. Luke’s Hospital, the hospital in charge of Texas Heart, aware of the problem who wrote at the time that if “…the affiliation should be dissolved, the impact to St. Luke’s market position is unclear. It’s likely that such news would generate national attention and negatively impact our standing in the US News and World Report rankings.” The executives chose to do nothing at the time.
- Skirting federal guidelines on medical research and publications. Apparently, the doctor cherry-picked data and ignored cases that made his medical advances look flawed. In one particularly egregious instance, Dr. Frazier hid the high-rate of strokes experienced by patients with one of his implants – a disturbing side-effect with serious consequences. In addition to a retraction in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, St. Luke’s and Texas Heart are now auditing every research study which Dr. Frazier was apart of to locate “any additional research deviations.”
- Choosing to install experimental, high-risk heart pumps over safer, more effective alternatives in patients with failing hearts. At the end of his tenure at Texas Heart, Dr. Frazier had one of the worst Medicare outcomes in the country. According to the doctor this is because he chose high-risk patients. However, St. Luke’s apparently disagrees and is in the process of refunding Medicare between 3.4 million and 4.7 million dollars.
- Failing to disclose conflicts of interest in his research publications. According to ProPublica, the doctor received stock options from a company which produced a heart pump he researched. In other cases, Dr. Frazier failed to disclose “consulting fees and research grants” when publishing his research.
Speaking to ProPublica, Dr. Frazier denied any wrongdoing or mishandling. He also disputes the accuracy of his “serious and repeated” violation of federal research guidelines and ethics.
Gallivan & Gallivan represents people harmed due to medical malpractice. Please contact us if you have any questions about your circumstances.