Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A crisis of conscience, with lives on the line

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This post is the second part of the story whose first part I blogged yesterday. The story appears in the Boston Globe and was written by Deirdre Fernandes, Liz Kowalczyk, Rebecca Ostriker, Jonathan Saltzman, and Spotlight editor Patricia Wen. The Boston Globe does have a paywall; however, you can still read the story, albeit without some interactive features, here. The report (without paywall) begins:

Second of a two-part series

They were brave, they were frightened, they were desperate.

The five respected physicians had seen and heard enough, and they were now bound and determined to stop Dr. Yvon Baribeau, a heart surgeon whom they saw as having a long history of deadly errors in the operating room. Three of them had already gone up the chain of command at Catholic Medical Center, with urgent appeals, but had been largely rebuffed by hospital leadership. The other two feared the hospital had lost its moral compass and allied themselves with the effort.

And so the five resolved to join in an almost unimaginable step: to go straight to the organization that founded and still oversees the hospital.

They were taking their case to the Church.

One by one, in early 2018, the five visited a priest at a church just a few miles from Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H. Monsignor John Quinn, a former diocese appointee to the hospital board of trustees, had agreed to see them in the strictest confidence, something like the seal of the confessional.

The physicians wanted it that way because they had an extraordinary request: Please help us stop Dr. Baribeau.

They knew they might be risking their careers by seeking to oust one of the top revenue-generating surgeons at the hospital, but they believed Baribeau was making more and more deadly mistakes. After decades in Manchester, a Boston Globe Spotlight Team investigation has found, he would become the US physician who accumulated the highest number of malpractice settlements involving surgical deaths in the last two decades, a database shows. In the previous year alone, six Baribeau patients who had died or were allegedly injured by his surgeries would become the subject of malpractice claims and settlements. And he was still operating.

One of those patients, a retired Army officer, lost so much blood after Baribeau allegedly lacerated a major blood vessel during heart surgery that clinicians had to replenish her entire blood supply nearly five times, according to a hospital colleague who reviewed the transfusion records. It wasn’t enough; she died the next day.

There were many cases as disturbing as this. And though the five doctors couldn’t know it at the time, the pattern would only worsen; the season that came to be known at CMC as the “summer of death” lay just ahead.

For the doctors, all this was more than a medical travesty, it was a crisis of conscience. They felt haunted by the likelihood that the patient harm would continue and brought those facts and feelings to Monsignor Quinn.

Dr. Paul Del Giudice, who led CMC’s anesthesia department for many years, recalled unburdening himself to Quinn as they sat in armchairs a few feet from each other in the priest’s modestly appointed office. Del Giudice confided that many doctors were deeply troubled about Baribeau but felt powerless in the face of an administration that had sought to silence or oust some who complained.

He recalls that Quinn nodded and listened during the meeting — but made no promises.

Maybe, the doctors hoped, Quinn could prevail upon Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester to intervene.

“We truly thought we could effectuate at least some sort of change,” said Del Giudice, who had witnessed Baribeau’s work in the operating room for more than two decades.

Another doctor who had sat down with Quinn — and who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from CMC leaders — said he and the others had “this horrendous moral dilemma going on” and being able to share this with the priest was deeply meaningful.

“Then I could be at peace, having done as much as I could,” he said.

It remains unclear if Quinn, or anyone in the diocese, acted on the pleas. Quinn has maintained public silence about these visits to St. Elizabeth Seton parish in Bedford, N.H. When a Globe reporter went to his rectory in May, he declined to confirm that the visits had happened at all. . .

Continue reading. (without paywall)

The Catholic church is skilled at cover-ups because it gets a lot of practice.

Update: The hospital offers its defense: it had no idea. It promises it will sure take a look at it now.

Written by Leisureguy

9 September 2022 at 11:55 am

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