HAMMOND — The plaintiff in the civil trial of a Munster cardiologist accused of performing unnecessary surgeries testified that he has suffered great emotional harm from having a device put in his body he didn't need.
Ray Kammer, formerly of Hammond, is suing Dr. Arvind Gandhi for $3 million for pain and suffering for implanting what he says was an unnecessary defibrillator. Gandhi faces similar claims from hundreds of patients. Kammer's is the first case to go to trial.
Kammer testified in Lake County Superior Court that Gandhi put the "fear of God" in him when he told him, after being hospitalized with heart problems in 2007, that he would die if he didn't have the device implanted.
Upon the recommendation of a friend, Kammer, then 25, got a second opinion. That doctor said he should take medication and be reevaluated in 90 days. But Kammer says he couldn't get out of his head what Gandhi told him.
"I still had it in the back of my mind that I had the risk of dying," Kammer testified.
Kammer admitted that he signed a form authorizing the procedure, which acknowledged he was aware of alternative treatments and that the surgery came with risks, including possible complications.
"Why was I going to go against someone I trusted?" he said. "When you go to your auto shop to get your car worked on, you trust your mechanic."
Kammer said part of his pain and suffering has been the fear of his friends and coworkers finding out he has a defibrillator through social media and news reports of the case.
The defense pointed out that Kammer participated in a news conference announcing the lawsuits in 2014. One of the plaintiff's lawyers asked Kammer why he did the news conference if he was scared of being outed in the media.
Kammer said he had "a lot of concern that there were a lot more people like me that had suffered the same fate, and the spotlight needed to be brought on it."
"I'm not a public person," he said, "but I knew it had to be done."
Kammer said this entire experience "has changed me as a person." He said he's become more passive, both physically and emotionally, and is more reclusive now.
"I feel a sense of rage I've never felt in my entire life," he said, in tearful testimony. "Every morning I look in the mirror and I'm reminded of this — this scar on my chest."
Kammer is also suing Gandhi's former practice, Cardiology Associates of Northwest Indiana, and the facility where he performed the procedure, Community Hospital in Munster. All three have denied the claims. The trial is expected to last until March 16.