The New York Times published an article yesterday, “When Heart Devices Fail, Who Should Be Blamed?” The article puts a nice gloss on how and whether a company and people in charge of a company can properly make amends and taking personal/corporate responsibility.
The backstory is, of course, that a federal judge is considering whether to accept a $296 million fine, and a guilty plea to two criminal misdemeanors by Guidant (now Boston Scientific). Two cardiologists are urging the judge to reject the deal, and instead, want prosecution of the company “and the individuals responsible.” The cardiologists, who cared for a 21-year-old patient who died because his Guidant device did not properly function, further stated that:
Manufacturers control the quality of their products. Manufacturers are the first to know when a medical device is dangerous or underperforming. Thus, it is in the best interest of patients, and society in general, for manufacturers to be liable for the safety and effectiveness of their products. To allow a repeat offender, like Guidant, to escape with a fine (that is entirely borne by the shareholders of Boston Scientific) does not hold the guilty parties fully accountable and inevitably undermines patient safety.
Sadly, it’s hard to know what the cardiologists are really looking for. I suspect they want the executives in charge to be put in jail, or have to pay fines from their own pockets. But, this may be a situation where there is no relief, as thousands of patients and their families know because they are prevented from filing meaningful civil lawsuits. The only thing we can do is work to repair the damage caused by medical device immunity.