Fired cardiologist sues Lahey over alleged Medtronic stent use pressures

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David E. Gossman, MD, an interventional cardiologist, who until his termination in September performed cardiac interventional procedures at the Lahey Clinics in Burlington, Mass., is accusing his former employer of terminating him due to his refusal to increase the use of Medtronic products.

In his complaint, Gossman claimed that he “vocally resisted (and encouraged his colleagues to resist) pressure from his employers. . . to significantly increase the use of cardiac products by Medtronic.” He suggested that Lahey’s pressure was motivated by a desire to participate in clinical trials for CoreValve, a heart valve from the Minneapolis-based Medtronic.

The complaint also named Lahey’s chairman of cardiology, Richard Nesto, MD, and its director of interventional cardiology and the cardiac cath lab, Thomas Piemonte, MD, as defendants.

According to the complaint, Piemonte receives a "substantial yearly income" from being on the Medtronic Speakers Bureau and Piemonte and his wife retain "substantial holdings" in Medtronic, as his wife has been employed by the company for years.

On Aug. 27, Gossman voiced concerns about pressure to use Medtronic products to peers and colleagues in a lecture that discussed, among other topics, the role of the clinic's Institutional Review Board (IRB), according to the complaint.

Gossman raised the following hypothetical question at the meeting: "If a medical device company approaches a hospital offering access to a new investigational device, but predicates access to the device on increased utilization of other products sold by the company, what would be the position of the IRB regarding this arrangement?"

The complaint alleges that within hours of the lecture, Nesto questioned cardiologists who attended the lecture and that he met with human resources about Gossman's employment.

Gossman also alleges in the complaint that Nesto and Piemonte solicited negative feedback about him from others in the cath lab to support his termination.

On Sept. 8, Gossman was terminated, his privileges immediately revoked and was physically escorted from the Lahey Clinic by a security guard, according to the complaint.

Gossman states in the complaint that he was not subject to any corrective action procedures provided by the bylaws. Nesto and Piemonte gave no reason for the decision to terminate Gossman at the time, sayng only that he was "an employee at-will, who could be terminated at any time."

The complaint suggested that the termination of Gossman violates the Massachusetts Healthcare Whistleblower Act, is in breach of the bylaws of the medical staff at Lahey, the conflict of interest policy at Lahey, the compliance policy at Lahey and/or is in breach of the “covenant of good faith and fair dealing arising out of these employment contracts; and constitutes tortuous interference, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”