It's arguably the most ornate, elaborate lighting fixture in the history of healthcare. But it's all in keeping with the glitz and glamour of America's gambling playground.
When the Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas formally opens next month, the entrance to the $50 million dollar facility will feature an 18-foot, 1,000-pound handblown chandelier created by renowned artist Dale Chihuly, whose work also is on vivid display in the nearby Bellagio casino.
The stunning sculpture-chandelier, with 550 pieces of glass in shades of blue, yellow and red, represents the notion that an "aesthetically pleasing environment" will help patients in their struggles against cancer, says the institute's president and chief executive officer, Heather Murren.
"I am a firm believer that art has the power to inspire and heal," she says. "The battle to fight cancer includes not only clinical studies and medical advances but also inspirational messages that speak to the soul."
The chandelier, a donation from the prolific artist, will serve as a centerpiece to a larger collection of art at the 142,000-square-foot institute, which Chihuly describes as a place with a "sense of optimism and beauty."
Of course, even with Chihuly's striking masterpiece, the cancer center's art collection pales in comparison to those featured in nearby casinos like the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas, a new standard-setter in over-the-top opulence that opened recently on the Strip featuring a gallery of works by Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Gauguin and Rembrandt.
Now that's Vegas, baby.
Doctors at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston are trying to overturn a decision to rename part of the facility after local lawyer John O'Quinn, whose foundation gave the largest donation ever to the hospital -- $25 million.
O'Quinn has a history of making millions of dollars by taking the healthcare industry to court. He won a lawsuit involving breast implants that bankrupted Dow Corning Corp., the manufacturer, and he included doctors in the original action, the Associated Press reports. Doctors eventually were dismissed from the lawsuit, which was later found to be based on faulty science.
Some doctors at St. Luke's have started circulating a petition against the name change, and they held an emergency meeting with the hospital's medical executive committee.
"The primary source of his financial success has been representing plaintiffs in medical liability and product liability cases, many of them groundless," says the petition, which is addressed to the Rev. Don Wimberly, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and chairman of the St. Luke's Episcopal Health System board of directors.
Priscilla Ray, a psychiatrist who wrote the petition, said that even though doctors were let out of the breast-implant litigation, it was onerous because they had to hire lawyers, prepare for trial and be deposed.
Last month, a Corpus Christi federal judge fined O'Quinn's law firm for its part in helping produce what she called bogus diagnoses involving the occupational illness silicosis, a sometimes fatal lung disease. She said the claims "defy all medical knowledge" and the diagnoses were about "litigation rather than healthcare."
O'Quinn could not be reached for comment.
Lee Hogan, executive chairman of the St. Luke's system board, says the concerns have been considered and that the matter is closed. He says the focus should be on "the generosity of the gift."
O'Quinn's supporters say the lawyer has not specialized in malpractice lawsuits against doctors. He has given money to the Baylor College of Medicine, and he has buildings named after him at the University of Houston and the Children's Assessment Center.
Since 1991, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's Morchand Center for Clinical Competence in New York has used actors to play patients, helping interns hone their communication skills in simulated situations where interns give clinical exams, break bad news or deal with culturally diverse populations. Now, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Medical Society of the State of New York, they will now also get training in telling patients that a medical error was made.
Doctors-in-training will be graded on how well they explain what happened, take responsibility, "apologize appropriately" and present proposals for avoiding similar mistakes in the future.
Associate Dean for Medical Education Erica Friedman says this is a complete turnaround from her own educational experience. "Where I was trained, we learned that doctors couldn't make mistakes," she says, adding that today's medical students still believe this is true.
"They still grew up believing they can remember everything, that they don't get sleep deprived," Friedman says. "Medical students are very detail-oriented and very driven, but they can't control everything and that's the toughest thing for them to put their arms around."
Friedman says scenarios are created that also teach interns the importance of trust between doctors and patients and the differences between accepting responsibility for an error and feeling guilty over a bad medical outcome that they had no control over.
She added that the valuable communications training Morchand provides wouldn't be possible without its team of talented and dedicated actors. "Sometimes they have to be hysterical and then do it for eight hours," Friedman says.