- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 13, 2005

HOUSTON — A trial lawyer who has made billions of dollars primarily from suing the health care industry has donated $25 million to see his name atop one of the world’s most renowned heart-treatment centers.

The acceptance of John M. O’Quinn’s donation by the board of St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and the announcement that the hospital’s medical tower will be renamed for the Houston lawyer has caused considerable concern, particularly among many of St. Luke’s doctors.

More than 80 doctors have signed a petition asking the board to reconsider its decision.

“Perhaps you are unaware of the intensity of feelings held by many physicians about Mr. John O’Quinn,” the petition reads. “The primary source of his financial success has been representing plaintiffs in medical-liability and products-liability cases, many of them groundless.”

Mr. O’Quinn was not available for comment.

Lee Hogan, executive chairman of the St. Luke’s System board, said last week the decision had been made and “[the board] isn’t inclined to reconsider.”

He said the focus should be on “the generosity of the gift” and how it will help upgrade and increase emergency-room facilities, intensive care and operating rooms.

The gift is the largest in the hospital’s 51 years of operation.

Dr. Priscilla Ray, a psychiatrist who authored the petition, recalled how many doctors were adversely affected by a lawsuit filed by Mr. O’Quinn against breast implant manufacturers, a case that ended with the bankruptcy of Dow Corning despite a consensus afterward that the plaintiffs’ case was not scientifically factual.

Dr. Ray said that although several doctors later were dropped from the litigation, they had been forced to hire lawyers and be deposed at length by plaintiffs’ attorneys before they were freed from the lawsuit.

Last month, a federal judge in Corpus Christi, Texas, fined Mr. O’Quinn’s law firm for introducing bogus diagnoses concerning silicosis, an often-fatal lung disease.

The judge said the claims “defy all medical knowledge” and claimed the diagnoses were “more about litigation rather than health care.”

The John M. O’Quinn Foundation has donated millions to the University of Houston, Baylor College of Medicine, the Children’s Assessment Center, the UH Law Center and a group called the End Hunger Network. Buildings at UH and the Children’s Assessment Center already bear his name.

St. Luke’s became one of the world’s most prestigious heart centers under the guidance of Dr. Denton Cooley, who with Dr. Michael DeBakey at nearby Methodist Hospital were leaders in early heart-transplant surgery and development of artificial-heart implantation in the 1960s and early ‘70s.

Dr. Cooley’s name graces one of St. Luke’s main buildings.

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