A Connecticut jury has awarded $5.5 million to three physicians who accused Yale University of retaliating over complaints about poor patient care and mismanagement in its radiology department.
The jury of four women and two men deliberated for 15 hours over three days before reaching a verdict. The decision capped six weeks of testimony in Waterbury Superior Court, The Hartford Courant reported.
Joseph Garrison, lawyer for one of the doctors, said jurors indirectly helped patients.
“I think they gave a patient-care message: You should not penalize doctors who are speaking out in good faith on behalf of their patients,” he said.
Yale said it will appeal. University spokesman Tom Conroy defended the diagnostic radiology department in Yale’s school of medicine and said no patients were in danger.
“We maintain it’s a model system,” he said.
Arthur Rosenfield, Morton Burrell and Robert Smith were doctors who also taught at Yale’s medical school complained to administrators that cost-cutting measures were putting patients at Yale-New Haven Medical Center at risk. They also complained to Yale President Richard Levin.
They alleged that non-specialists were involved in diagnostic studies and teaching physicians approved studies interpreted by residents without checking their accuracy, a violation of Medicare rules and patient care principles.
The doctors say Yale failed to address their concerns, but instead cut their pay and removed them from their leadership positions.
Smith has quit.
The doctors sued in January 2000, accusing Yale of violating their right to freedom of speech and academic freedom by retaliating against them.
During the trial, Yale portrayed the doctors as disgruntled employees worried about protecting their turf and maintaining a comfortable workload. Yale claimed the doctors used patient care as a cover to air their grievances.
The trial also focused on health care industry changes in the mid-1990s. Federal cost-cutting for CT scans, MRI tests and other exams forced Yale to continue its work with less money.
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