For more than a year now, as most CardioBrief readers undoubtedly know, a scandal in Maryland has raised troubling questions about hundreds of stent patients treated by Mark Midei — previously considered one of the top interventional cardiologists in the state. In the wake of the scandal, some have questioned whether other interventional cardiologists, in Maryland and elsewhere, may also have routinely performed unnecessary procedures.
Of course, no one knows the true extent of the problem. But clearly something is, or was, rotten in the state of Maryland, and perhaps other states as well. (It would be interesting to know how many other cardiologists have come close to Midei’s apparent record of implanting 30 stents in one day, or have had a major device company throw them a pig roast.)
But that’s not the message the ACC wants you to hear. As the official voice of the cardiology profession in the US, the ACC is making great efforts to downplay the problem and reassure anyone who might have been paying attention. Here’s the text of an audio statement from ACC president Ralph Brindis that the ACC proudly informs us was picked up by 28 radio stations:
WE ARE WORKING TO ENSURE THAT ALL PATIENTS IN MARYLAND AND ACROSS THE COUNTRY CONTINUE TO RECEIVE THE HIGHEST QUALITY AND MOST PERSONALIZED CARE POSSIBLE AND THAT EVERY PATIENT IN NEED OF CARDIOVASCULAR CARE RECEIVES THE MOST APPROPRIATE TREATMENT AVAILABLE.
This strikes me as a perfect example of the institutional imperative at work. It’s easy to make fun of the bland PR language and the ham-fisted effort to transform a potential black eye on the profession into a not-so-subtle reminder of all the great achievements of the cardiology profession. Certainly there’s plenty to celebrate about the successes of cardiology, but the Midei scandal is for many reasons the wrong occasion to do so.
I personally feel that the true interests of cardiology would be far better served by a frank statement acknowledging that perhaps something really was rotten in the state of Maryland, and that the ACC, rather than trying to spin the issue away, would be doing everything in its power to uncover and correct the problem.
Larry Husten is a writer and editor of CardioBrief.org.
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