St. Peter's oncologist incorrectly treated patient for lung cancer for 11 years, hospital says

Helena, Mont.-based St. Peter's Health claims a former oncologist at the health system incorrectly treated a patient for lung cancer for 11 years when, at the time of the patient's death, it was determined they did not have the disease, the Independent Record reported Jan. 20. 

St. Peter's ended the employment of Tom Weiner, MD, an oncologist who worked at the health system for nearly 25 years, Nov. 17 after learning the physician had been harming patients for years, CEO Wade Johnson wrote in a letter published in the Independent Record.

St. Peter's attorneys claim Dr. Weiner treated a patient, referred to as Patient 1 in court documents, without performing a biopsy to confirm a lung cancer diagnosis. 

"More troubling is that the physicians who treated Patient 1 at the outside hospital noted that there was no conclusive evidence in the record that Patient 1 ever had lung cancer," the documents said, according to the Independent Record. "Nonetheless, he treated  Patient 1 with highly toxic chemotherapy for more than a decade, resulting in the patient's demise." 

The documents detail other alleged errors made by Dr. Weiner, including "alarming narcotic prescribing practices," in which he prescribed high-dose opioids to patients with non-cancer pain without documentation. St. Peter's legal counsel said they confirmed the prescriptions by searching through the Montana Prescription Drug Registry. Among other allegations of harm include a situation where Dr. Weiner treated a patient who went through chemotherapy for eight years without retesting to evaluate whether the treatment was still necessary, patients not understanding why they were being treated and inadequate documentation of physical exams.

J. Devlan Geddes, Dr. Weiner's attorney, denied the claims. 

"He carefully monitored every patient for whom he prescribed opioid medications to ensure the patient needed the medication and was not addicted," Mr. Geddes wrote in an email to the Independent Record. 

Dr. Weiner filed a lawsuit against the hospital Dec. 10 after he was dismissed from his position Nov. 17, claiming it was done without good cause and damaged his reputation. Some of Dr. Weiner's former patients filed a class-action lawsuit against St. Peter's in November, claiming they weren't consulted before his sudden absence, resulting in gaps in their care. St. Peter's is asking the court to dismiss the class-action lawsuit. 

To read the full Independent Record article, click here

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