Coronary’ cuts to heart of Tenet scandal

Some books are good enough to keep me in a chair reading eight hours straight, but not many of them are medical-legal nonfiction. “Coronary: A True Story of Medicine Gone Awry” was riveting.

The book, about the 2002 FBI investigation into Tenet Healthcare and accusations of unnecessary heart surgeries at Redding Medical Center, was released Jan. 9. Local bookstores can hardly keep it in stock.

“Coronary” is paced like a thriller, but this long-form journalism is a factual account packed with details. It captures well the tone and history of the region, and recounts the stunning effect the scandal had on the medical community, patients and California’s north state at large.

The author lived in Redding almost a year, conducting hundreds of interviews and collecting millions of details. It’s as comprehensive a story of what happened as we’ll probably ever get, complete with heroes, villains and unsuspecting innocents.

I’ve heard and read a bit of bizarre commentary about the book; flippant, dismissive chatter by people who appear to have prejudged the book without reading it. Weird. Some folks never let facts get in the way of an opinion.

I met Steve Klaidman and his wife, Kitty, on two or three occasions while they were here, and found them to be warm and intelligent people who seem genuinely fond of Redding. Soft-spoken and careful, Steve, 68, is the picture of gentle concern.

In the author’s note, he says he has been interested in America’s health care industry for more than 20 years.

Of his initial consideration of the
Tenet-RMC events as a book, he writes: “My interest was in systemic flaws in American medicine, not criminal fraud. But the more I thought about it the more obvious it seemed to me that vulnerability to fraud was a major systemic flaw in American medicine. … My previous book, Saving the Heart,’ had dealt with cardiac medicine and I knew that two well-qualified clinicians could evaluate the same patient’s disease and reach very different conclusions about how it should be treated or even if it needed to be treated. Suppose the cardiologists and cardiac surgeons in Redding were guilty of no more than being aggressive practitioners who believed they were practicing good, up-to-date medicine and their local colleagues were simply … behind the curve? Well, it didn’t take me too long to recognize there was a book in that, too. This story was not just about medicine, it was also about justice, irrespective of whether the victims were patients or doctors.”

The book has received high marks, and a Business Week review says, “Klaidman never forgets that, at its core, this is a tale of a company that seems to have cracked under pressure from Wall Street to continually boost profits.”

Americans are at the mercy, ultimately, of a giant medical machine. Parts have our best interests at heart. Other parts will grind our bones to make their bread.

Comments (1)

Roger C. PetersonMarch 22nd, 2007 at 12:44 am

My mother ,Marie June Peterson, Was a victom of Dr.s Realyvasquez and Moon. Only now have we found out about this case settling. My mother now long dead . I am told we now are too late for our pound of flesh from these Butchers . If they ever show up in So. Colorado I cant tell you what I might do to them !!! My mother suffered and now were told we have no recourse…. I hope they rot in HELL !! Roger Carl Peterson ;rcp-53@hotmail.com

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