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HAMMOND — A Munster cardiologist accused of performing an unnecessary surgery on a patient in 2007 testified Tuesday that he thought the man was at risk of dying.

Ray Kammer, formerly of Hammond, is suing Dr. Arvind Gandhi for $3 million for pain and suffering for allegedly implanting an unnecessary defibrillator. Gandhi stands accused of similar allegations from hundreds of former patients; Kammer's case is the first to go to trial.

Gandhi met Kammer, then 25 years old, in June 2007 at Community Hospital, where the patient was admitted with dangerously high blood pressure, among other symptoms.

"He had a very serious condition," Gandhi testified at Lake County Superior Court in Hammond, noting Kammer was at a high risk for a heart attack or stroke. "He had to be closely monitored."

Kammer's heart was enlarged, had decreased movement and was performing at about 50 percent of normal functioning, Gandhi said. The patient also had severe swelling in his legs and feet.

Gandhi recommended a defibrillator, which would shock the heart back to life if it ever stopped.

"The family was there — I talked to all of them," Gandhi said. "I showed my severe concern about his health." He explained to them that Kammer was at risk of "sudden cardiac death."

Kammer got a second opinion, from an electrophysiologist, who recommended Kammer take medication and be re-evaluated in 90 days. That doctor placed Kammer's chances of death in that time period at 1 percent.

"I felt that was high to begin with and it could be higher than that," Gandhi said. "I think even 1 percent for a 25-year-old is high."

Gandhi was asked about a report in which he noted that Kammer had coronary artery disease, which Gandhi admits the man did not have. He called that "a documentation error."

"Medical records are official hospital documents that must be accurate for patient safety — do you agree with this statement?" asked Barry Rooth, a lawyer for Kammer.

"Yes," Gandhi said.

After the procedure, according to medical records, Kammer was discharged from the hospital with diagnoses of malignant hypertension, congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, morbid obesity, sleep apnea and primary cardiomyopathy.

The next month, Kammer followed up with Gandhi and reported that he felt "really good," according to medical records. Gandhi said the patient was getting better because of his treatment, including the device.

Gandhi's testimony continues Wednesday. The trial began last week in Lake County Superior Court in Hammond and is expected to last through next week. Most of the other complaints against Gandhi still are waiting to be heard by a state medical review panel before they can go to trial.

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.