Dr. Vinay Malviya was once a highly respected gynecologic oncologist at Ascension Hospital in Michigan, but he is no longer practicing medicine now that several physicians, former patients, state, and federal regulators have accused him of performing unnecessary surgeries, which put scores of patients at risk of medical complications.
A local news outlet first reported the accusations in September. Several internal investigations show the doctor performed radical hysterectomies on a number of women dating back to 2016.
Tracey Wolfe was unaware of the allegations against Malviya when she started seeing him in 2018. She was referred to Malviya after experiencing intermittent bleeding. After undergoing an exam, Wolfe says he told her that she had a large cyst on her ovary.
“He told me that there was the possibility it could be cancerous,” Wolfe said. “I was terrified, and I just wanted to go ahead and have the procedure and get it over with.”
But rather than remove the cyst, Wolfe says Malviya recommended a total hysterectomy. He made a large incision in her abdomen and removed her uterus, cervix, and ovaries.
“The pain was the worst pain I’d ever experienced in my life,” she said. “And I have a high tolerance for pain.”
But she later learned the cyst wasn’t cancerous.
“He was just too aggressive,” Wolfe said. “And I can’t imagine what has and could have happened to some of his other patients.”
Donna Cain first saw Malviya in 2018 after experiencing pain in her uterus.
Her primary care doctor had already diagnosed her with fibrosis, not cancer, but again the oncologist recommended a total hysterectomy.
“I went back to my gynecologist,” Cain said. “She did an exam and said, ‘No you don’t.’ I went to my primary care. She did an exam (and said), ‘No you don’t, what is he talking about?’”
Like many patients facing a life-changing diagnosis, Cain was scared. She didn’t know whom to trust now that she had two completely different medical opinions.
She had already survived breast cancer and didn’t want to risk going through treatment again, so she opted for the hysterectomy.
“When I went home, I was thinking OK. I’ve gotten this over with. Here comes the healing,” she said. “There wasn’t healing. To this day, there’s still pain.”
The procedure led to serious complications that sent her to the local emergency room.
“They said, ‘We’re admitting you,’” she recalled. “I said, ‘Why? What’s going on?’ You have (a pulmonary embolism). That’s a blood clot on your lungs, and it was developed through your surgery.”
Looking back on the experience, Cain said the procedure that was supposed to fix her pain ended up making it worse and complicating life for her and her husband.
“We haven’t been intimate since 2018,” Cain said. “Too painful. I don’t know. He messed me up. I feel like I’m really messed up.”
But several internal investigations show Ascension Hospital was warned that Malviya was performing medically unnecessary hysterectomies as early as 2016. Two expert reviews found that the oncologist was putting patients at risk by performing overly aggressive cancer surgeries.
One physician even noted that Malviya’s methods “may be about lack of knowledge as well as about financial gain.”
But Ascension never shared this with patients.
Wolfe and Cain are outraged that the hospital failed to intervene. The company finally ended its contract with Malviya in 2021, several years after the allegations first came to light. Ascension did not respond to requests for comment. The hospital agreed to pay $2.8 million as part of a settlement over medically unnecessary procedures last year.
Donna MacKenzie, a medical practice lawyer representing both Cain and Wolfe, commented on the hospital’s decision to keep the accusations quiet.
“If they took away Malviya’s privileges or credentials or whatever it may be, they would be cutting off that hand that was feeding them,” MacKenzie said.
She said she’s been in touch with nearly 150 of Malviya’s former patients since the story was published.
“Despite the hospital’s own review, despite the federal investigation, despite the state investigation,” MacKenzie said, “Malviya was allowed to continue to practice, and continued to see patients at Ascension, and Ascension continued to make money from Malviya.”
She believes hospitals need more oversight to avoid a conflict of interest.
“We allow hospitals and doctors to police themselves,” MacKenzie said. “And I think this is a perfect example of why this does not work.”