Former Swedish Health neurosurgeon wins $17.5M case contesting termination

An arbitrator awarded neurosurgeon David Newell, MD, a former employee of Seattle-based Swedish Health, $17.5 million Thursday. Dr. Newell alleged Swedish fired him in retaliation for issuing complaints about a fellow surgeon at the facility, The Seattle Times reports.

Here are eight things to know about the case.

1. Swedish fired Dr. Newell roughly one year ago. Health system officials contend Dr. Newell was fired for failing to notify officials he had been arrested and jailed for soliciting sex at a massage parlor in July 2016, where police had set up a sting operation. Dr. Newell pleaded guilty to soliciting a prostitute, and agreed to pay a fine and complete 80 hours of community service, according to court records.

2. Swedish officials alleged Dr. Newell breached his employment agreement by failing to immediately notify health system officials of his involvement in a "criminal investigation" following the incident with police.

3. However, Dr. Newell claimed Swedish officials used the prostitution case "as a cover to get rid of him" after he issued complaints about a "star" colleague, Johnny Delashaw, MD, the report states.

4. Dr. Delashaw resigned from his post as chairman of the Seattle-based Swedish Neuroscience Institute in March after The Seattle Times published an investigation calling his patient care practices into question. The Medical Quality Assurance Commission in Washington state suspended Dr. Delashaw's medical license in May following an investigation into claims outlined in The Seattle Times report.

5. Dr. Newell, speaking through his lawyer, told The Seattle Times he issued complaints about Dr. Delashaw as early as 2015, expressing concerns Dr. Delashaw was allegedly "trying to marginalize him, take some of his work and seeking to get him fired," court records state. Dr. Newell also claimed Dr. Delashaw "retaliated against him by dismantling his practice and harassing him," according to court records.

6. In his testimony, Dr. Newell stated he did not immediately tell Swedish officials about the prostitution incident and subsequent arrest because "he was waiting … until he got information in the mail about the case," the report states. His lawyers wrote during the arbitration case neither the Seattle Police Department nor the Seattle City Attorney's Office "inform[ed] Dr. Newell — verbally or in writing — that he was the subject of a criminal investigation … nor did he have any knowledge of the existence of a criminal investigation," court records state.

7. Newell's lawyers have reportedly requested a judge confirm the $17.5 million award, which includes $16.5 million for lost earnings and $1 million for emotional distress, the report states. Swedish Health, along with parent company Renton, Wash.-based Providence Health & Services, plan to challenge the award in court.

8. Despite his termination, Dr. Newell has continued to perform surgeries at Swedish Health's Cherry Hill campus, where he maintains privileges. The Washington State Department of Health contended that by working at the facility, Dr. Newell had committed unprofessional conduct and may face sanctions. The health department's case regarding Newell is still pending, according to the report.

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