Radiologist sues hospital for 'silencing' his patient safety concerns

University of Iowa radiologist Malik Juweid filed a lawsuit earlier this month charging the hospital is trying to silence his complaints that the facility performs unnecessary PET and CT scans, particularly on children. He also seeks unspecified damages for racial discrimination and defamation.

The problem lies in physicians ordering unneeded imaging scans, sometimes on healthy patients, Juweid's lawyer, Rockne Cole, told the Des Moines Register yesterday.

Cole indicated the Iowa Board of Medicine had launched an investigation into the allegations. Hospital officials say they have not been notified of any official investigation and called Juweid's allegations "baseless."

When it comes to "medical imaging practices, we follow the American College of Radiology appropriateness criteria for every radiologic exam," says Tom Moore, a hospital and university spokesman.

The hospital has leveled some counter-charges at Juweid, the Register reports. In particular, it says Juweid violated HIPAA security requirements by including the health history of an eight-year-old child when he contacted the Iowa Board of Medicine to complain about the hospital's imaging practices.

However, Juweid may have some backup. A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that about 33 percent of CT scans are unnecessary. And a 2008 study in Current Opinion in Pediatrics indicated particular risks for children, including receiving adult-sized radiation doses or radiation delivered outside of the affected area of the body.

And New York Times investigative journalist Walt Bogdanich yesterday discussed his ongoing investigation into safety lapses during radiation treatments, including uncessary full-body scans of infants and other cases of over-radiation. His interview was broadcast on National Public Radio's Fresh Air.   

To learn more:
- check out the Des Moines Register article
- read Walt Bogdanich's reporting on radiation safety lapses