UC settles with former surgical director for $10M

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - The University of California will pay $10 million to a former surgical chairman who said he was the victim of retaliation after pointing out conflicts of interest at the medical school on the Los Angeles campus.

UC regents agreed to the settlement Tuesday, just before closing arguments were to begin in the lawsuit brought by Robert Pedowitz, the Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/Psl6Wk ).

Pedowitz, 54, was recruited in 2009 to run UCLA’s orthopedic surgery department.

In 2012 he sued the school, the regents, fellow surgeons and university officials, saying they failed to act on his complaints that doctors were allowed to take payments from device makers and other companies that may have compromised patient care. He said he was later victimized for speaking out.

UCLA denied Pedowitz’s allegations, and officials said they found no wrongdoing by faculty and no evidence that patient care was jeopardized. But the UC system paid him anyway, saying it wanted to avoid the “substantial expense and inconvenience” of further litigation.

As department chairman, Pedowitz testified, he became concerned about colleagues who had financial ties to medical-device makers or other companies that could unduly influence their care of patients or taint important medical research.

He also alleged that UCLA looked the other way because the university stood to benefit financially from the success of medical products or drugs developed by its doctors.

One of the orthopedic surgeons that Pedowitz complained about testified at trial about receiving $250,000 in consulting fees in 2008 from device maker Medtronic, the Times reported. In memos to university officials, Pedowitz raised concerns about the financial dealings of other doctors as well.

Pedowitz said he felt vindicated by the outcome Tuesday.

“These are serious issues that patients should be worried about,” Pedowitz said in an interview with the newspaper. “These problems exist in the broader medical system and they are not restricted to UCLA.”

As part of the settlement, Pedowitz left the UCLA faculty, effective Tuesday. He had agreed to step down as department chairman in 2010 after initially voicing his concerns to top UCLA officials.

He filed the whistleblower retaliation complaint in March 2011.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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