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Tenet Suit Alleges Unneeded Heart Surgery

Aug 17, 2003 | AP

A lawsuit against Tenet Healthcare Corp. claims doctors at a California hospital performed unnecessary heart surgery on hundreds of patients, including country music star Merle Haggard.

The suit, filed Friday against Tenet and eight doctors, is the latest in a series of probes and lawsuits involving the nation's second-largest for-profit hospital chain.

Fifty-one of the 366 patients in the suit have died. The suit contends some died from procedures performed at Redding Medical Center in Northern California.

Tenet officials declined to comment Friday to the Los Angeles Times, saying they had not seen the lawsuit. Company lawyers were not available Saturday.

Haggard, 66, received two heart stents at the hospital in 1997 after allegedly being told his heart was failing. Haggard has said he later suspected the emergency surgery was not needed.

The suit came a week after Tenet agreed to pay the federal government $54 million to resolve allegations of fraud at the Redding hospital. Tenet admitted no wrongdoing.

More than 100 other lawsuits have been filed since last fall, when federal investigators accused two Redding doctors of performing unnecessary operations on healthy patients. The company also is facing scrutiny elsewhere: Florida officials announced this month that the state is investigating hospitals with ties to Tenet.

Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Tenet owns and operates 114 hospitals in 16 states.

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