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suny surgeons whistle blow

SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NYC, came under fire when two top transplant surgeons blew the whistle on medical malpractice, lack of patient care, and understaffing at the hospital's cardiothoracic surgery department and cardiothoracic intensive care units and were subsequently fired.

How the Event Unfolded

Dr. Rainer Gruessner, who was also in the news for heading the team of surgeons who performed surgery on former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in 2011, and Dr. John Renz were part of SUNY Downstate's surgery department. Gruessner was hired as Chief of Transplant and Head of the Department, and Renz was on his surgeons' team. SUNY Downstate had hired Gruessner, hoping that a top surgeon like him would be able to breathe new life into the hospital's cardiothoracic and surgery residency programs. But little did they expect that a surgeon of his caliber - not to mention moral standing - was bound to be appalled by the conditions he witnessed at the hospital.

Dr. Gruessner and Dr. Renz uncovered some alarming issues during their tenure at the hospital, including:

  • Three patient deaths within a year due to lack of required 24/7 coverage in the cardiothoracic surgery and intensive care units, of which one bled to death when the on-call doctor could not be reached and the resident on duty was so inexperienced that he almost shocked himself with the defibrillator;
  • Lack of required 24/7 coverage in the pediatric surgery department;
  • Numerous transplants failing due to insufficient dosage of immunosuppressants being prescribed to patients;
  • Alcohol and drug paraphernalia being found in a department surgeon's office;
  • Another department surgeon left a foreign object in a patient's body despite numerous visits and multiple other records showing a retained stent. The same surgeon also left a patient on the OT, and Renz and Gruessner had to be summoned back from their trip under emergency circumstances.

When the noted surgeons spoke up about SUNY Downstate's terrible conditions, they were fired under the pretense of renegotiation and operational needs. The hospital even seized Dr. Renz's computer, which contained records of patient deaths, recommendations for improvement, and cases of transplant rejections. He was escorted out of the premises by security, and when he got his hard disk back, it had been wiped clean of all data and destroyed. Both the surgeons filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against SUNY and SUNY Downstate Medical Center at the Brooklyn Supreme Court.

A spokesperson for the hospital maintained that patient care was and would always be their top priority and that they were committed to upholding excellent standards at the hospital. However, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, SUNY Downstate showed low success rates for transplants and the longest waiting times before getting one. It earned a "C" in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade.

The Legal Aspect

Medical malpractice in NYC is higher than anticipated. If you, or someone you know, has faced medical negligence, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer for swift and comprehensive action. With lives at stake, medical negligence is no joke. A medical malpractice attorney with the right experience will be able to get you justice and hold the negligent body responsible for any and all losses. Get in touch with us today by calling us at 1-800-660-2264. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with us today! 


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