“By knowingly comparing a mortality rate for Dr. Black based only on open-heart surgeries to a mortality rate based on both open-heart and closed-heart surgeries, the CNN Defendants knowingly and artificially inflated Dr. Black’s mortality rate vis-à-vis the STS national average,” reads the complaint. “A true and fair comparison would require an apples-to-apples comparison of Dr. Black’s mortality rate for both open- and closed-heart surgeries to the STS national average.”
Further, the CNN report only includes a raw death number. But the STS keeps a “risk-adjusted” figure which takes into account the health of a patient when they enter. Hospitals that treat higher risk patients, have higher mortality rates. This is part because of the condition itself and that it’s going more expensive and more complex to treat them.
Carbone also claims the network purposely ignored information that would make the story two-sided, or favorable, in order to add more glitz to the piece. The lawsuit complains that Carbone wasn’t given an adequate chance to respond. The camera shows the reporter ambushing Carbone outside his house and blankly asking for the death rate, a statistic that the hospital typically does not publish. Carbone was unprepared to comment and therefore declined. That was his only chance to defend himself. The lawsuit reads:
“The CNN Defendants did not intend to obtain information for their story from Mr. Carbone when [reporter Elizabeth Cohen] and a CNN camera crew ambushed him and his wife at their home. Rather, the CNN Defendants intended to obtain footage for their story that would falsely portray Mr. Carbone and, by implication, St. Mary’s and Dr. Black, as unwilling to provide information about the Program.”
The result was devastating to the hospital. The hospital closed the pediatric heart surgery program, claiming that “inaccurate media reports” would make it difficult to “build sustainable volume.” Carbone resigned in August and claimed he has been unable to find work in hospital administration.
CNN still claims innocence. CNN’s legal team e-mailed St. Mary’s lawyer stating, “Arguing that we should use a set of figures more favorable to your client may be a basis for criticism, which CNN has been transparent about, but it does not render CNN’s reporting false nor in any way irresponsible or malicious.”