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Families sue Sacred Heart doctors, executives over patient deaths

In early July, Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago was closed after the hospital's owner and chief financial officer, along with four doctors, were arrested by federal authorities. The suspects are accused of egregious violations that a recently filed civil lawsuit claims led to the deaths of two patients.

The lawsuit points not only to the financial damage caused by Medicare fraud, but also to the toll it can take on human life.

According to the deceased patients' families, their loved ones died as a result of doctors' administering unnecessary surgeries in order to keep the patients in the hospital longer. These longer stays would allow the hospital and doctors to receive more Medicare payments.

In particular, the patients were given tracheotomies -- slits in their necks to allow the insertion of breathing tubes. According to the lawsuit, both patients, a 70-year-old man and a 62-year-old woman, died because of complications caused by the procedures.

Those claims resemble the ones made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The agency's affidavit alleges that the hospital owner urged staff members to extend the stay of tracheotomy patients. According to the federal complaint, the hospital could stand to collect $160,000 from Medicare for each tracheotomy patient who remained in the hospital for 27 days.

By Aug. 13, federal prosecutors will have decided whether or not to charge the doctors and the other two defendants, though the likelihood of criminal charges in this case appears quite strong.

Not every instance of medical malpractice or wrongful death is linked to a criminal investigation. In some cases, the only way to achieve legal justice is through a civil claim. Illinois residents who would like to learn more about medical malpractice are encouraged to visit our medical negligence site. Our firm helps families and individuals achieve the justice they deserve.

Source: Crain's Chicago Business, "Sacred Heart sued in two patient deaths," Andrew L. Wang, July 29, 2013

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