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Ex-Doctor Claims Pap Tests Were Falsified

December 19, 2003

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center certified thousands of Pap tests when they were never reviewed by physicians, putting an unknown number of women at risk of diseases that may have gone undetected, two lawsuits allege.

The suits filed Wednesday and Thursday allege the medical center’s Magee-Womens Hospital routinely misled patients into thinking their tests were examined by doctors by putting doctors’ electronic signatures on test results.

The hospital believed it could get more gynecologists to send samples for testing, generating more revenue, if the hospital claimed that Pap smears were checked by physicians, rather than technicians, attorneys for the plaintiffs said Thursday.

UPMC officials denounced the lawsuits as meritless.

``Women are being unnecessarily alarmed by these allegations,″ Magee chief executive Irma Goertzen said. ``What we are encouraging women to do is to contact their private physicians.″

Pap tests are routine screenings for gynecological cancers and tissue abnormalities. Goertzen said the hospital handles about 100,000 Pap smears a year and that all its laboratories meet regulatory standards.

A former hospital pathologist, Dr. Susan Silver, 47, filed suit Wednesday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. She claims she was fired for complaining about the alleged deficiencies and is seeking damages under the state’s whistleblower law and other statutes.

Two patients, Christine Walter and Sharon King, filed suit Thursday in the same court. They claim negligence and fraud, and are seeking court-ordered testing for women who had Pap smears reviewed by the hospital between 1995 and 2001.

Silver’s lawsuit said a number of cancer patients and others were wrongly declared healthy in false reports and that some weren’t properly diagnosed for up to four years.

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