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CA Court Upholds $4.7M Judgment for Surgeon Against Cedars Sinai

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 31, 2011

A California Court of Appeals in Los Angeles has upheld a $4.7 million arbitration award to a skull surgeon in his five-year litigation against Cedars Sinai Medical Center, in which he claimed that the hospital endangered his patients' lives.

Hrayr Shahinian, MD, alleged the hospital failed to properly sterilize his surgical equipment and did not supply him with replacement tools that his delicate brain surgeries require. He claimed his presence on the staff "was met with tremendous resistance from neurosurgeons and others, who perceived (him) as a threat" and that a concerted effort to deny him support and the ability to perform surgery at the hospital ensued.

Shahinian alleged in his complaint that while he was on staff conducting procedures, hospital staff used flash sterilization techniques – said to be used only in rare instances when an instrument is dropped and there is no ready replacement – to clean instruments rather than cleaning them properly. That made his patients vulnerable to a variety of infectious diseases. Other surgeons were not limited in this way, he maintained

"In numerous instances, bioburden (brain matter) was found on surgical instruments supposedly sterilized by Cedars-Sinai," Shahinian said in a news release. "Had they been used, patients would have been vulnerable to a host of infections, including one resembling 'mad cow' disease."

Shahinian, who had been a surgeon in New York before being recruited to Los Angeles in 1996, also alleged that he was pressured to extend overnight stays for his patients "long beyond what was medically necessary to increase revenue for the hospital," and coerced members of the surgical team to testify against him in a malpractice case he recently lost.

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