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Westmoreland

Deliberations on deck in malpractice suit

Rich Cholodofsky
| Thursday, March 16, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

A Westmoreland County jury is expected to begin deliberations Friday afternoon in the medical malpractice lawsuit against a local cardiac doctor and Excela Health.

Testimony concluded Thursday in the case brought by Steven Sensenich of North Huntingdon, who claims Dr. Ehab Morcos performed unnecessary medical procedures in late 2008 and that Excela failed to protect patients from receiving improper treatment.

Common Pleas Court Judge Anthony Marsili told jurors that lawyers will make closing arguments Friday morning on behalf of Sensenich, Morcos, Excela and Westmoreland County Cardiology, the Greensburg-based practice where Morcos worked.

The trial is the first of 71 pending cases filed against Excela, Morcos and Dr. George Bou Samra claiming the doctors performed unnecessary stent implants at Excela. More than 112 lawsuits were filed, and about 40 were settled or disposed of otherwise.

Excela officials in early 2011 issued disclosures to 192 patients, informing them they may have received unnecessary stents from Morcos and Bou Samra during 2009 and 2010.

During nine days of testimony, Sensenich's lawyers attempted to prove that Morcos performed unnecessary procedures in late 2008 to implant stents that were not needed. Sensenich conceded the first of three procedures in which he received two stents was necessary to fix a blocked artery.

Five additional stents — metal mesh tubes are inflated to open blocked cardiac vessels — were implanted during procedures in November and December 2008. Sensenich claims those devices were not medically needed and life-threatening complications arose.

Morcos continued his testimony on Thursday and defended his treatment of Sensenich.

Sensenich's lawyer, Victor Pribanic, and Morcos sparred over interpretations of photos taken during the three procedures in which the doctor maintained there were significant blockages that required stents.

Morcos disputed Pribanic's claims.

“It's for the patient's best interest,” Morcos testified. The doctor also denied Sensenich's life was in jeopardy during the November procedure in which an artery was damaged. “There was no indication he was sick and no indication he was in distress,” Morcos told jurors.

Morcos defended his decision to resign from Westmoreland County Cardiology in January 2011, only days before Excela officials said he would be suspended from practicing at the hospital.

Morcos said he became uncomfortable at Excela and started looking for a new job several months earlier but stayed on into January to allow other doctors to take holiday vacations.

“My intention to leave was early on, but I waited to cover for everybody at the hospital,” Morcos testified.

Robert Rogalski, Excela's top administrator, testified last week that Morcos resigned days before he was to be suspended following the completion of an external, independent review of the hospital's cardiology program that identified Morcos and Bou Samra as implanting unnecessary stents.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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