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HAMMOND — A Lake County civil jury has ruled against a Munster cardiologist in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The jury this week awarded Sharon Greer, the widow of Ken Greer, $450,000.

Dr. Arvind Gandhi and his practice, Munster-based Cardiology Associates of Northwest Indiana, were accused of improperly treating an infection in Ken Greer's pacemaker in October 2011. Greer died the same month.

"We're gratified that the jury was willing to hold Dr. Gandhi accountable and responsible for his fatal choices that he made in taking care of Ken Greer," said Sharon Greer's attorney, Barry Rooth.

Ken Greer, a manager at Strack & VanTil in Highland, originally went to Gandhi to have the battery in his pacemaker changed. After it became infected, he returned to the hospital, where Gandhi took out the device, washed it off with antibiotics and reinserted it into the same pocket.

The American Heart Association recommends in such cases the complete removal of the hardware, regardless of location and whether the infection was systemic, according to evidence presented at the trial. In a 2009 paper endorsed by the heart association, the Heart Rhythm Society wrote there is "rarely (if ever) a place for pocket revision by reimplanting an eroded or infected device in the same pocket that has been debrided."

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Still infected more than two weeks later, Greer returned to the hospital and had the device removed. After he was discharged, on Oct. 27, Greer collapsed upon arriving home and was later pronounced dead at the emergency room. He was 65.

"We were married for 46 years. Our children were grown and we already had grandchildren. We were looking forward to retirement," said Sharon Greer, 69, a Highland realtor, trying to explain what it's like to no longer have her husband around. "It's losing that person to talk to, to always be with. I still will go to the phone to call him at work. The loss of someone who's your best friend is just devastating."

Gandhi didn't order an autopsy of Greer. The plantiff's attorneys presented evidence that Greer died of a pulmonary embolism, the result of having his prescribed blood thinners stopped during each of his three hospitalizations.

"Dr. Gandhi and Cardiology Associates of Northwest Indiana are understandably disappointed with the verdict," defense attorney Kirk Pinkerton said in a a statement. "A majority of experts testified that the cause of Mr. Greer's death could not be determined by the greater weight of the evidence. The jury believed otherwise. We will assess the verdict and determine whether to appeal."

Gandhi retired in the fall and no longer practices medicine. The former cardiologist faces hundreds of additional complaints claiming that he and two colleagues, Drs. Satyaprakash Makam and Wail Asfour, unnecessarily implanted cardiac devices in patients at Munster Community Hospital then altered the medical records to make it look like they were needed. The first two cases are set to go to trial in 2017.

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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.