Duluth duo investigates disciplined doctor

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The latest crop of disciplined doctors stories, spearheaded by the work of ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber, has focused on problem caregivers in the aggregate, with liberal use of anecdotes. Now, Brandon Stahl and Mark Stodghill of the Duluth News Tribune have assembled an investigation that proves there’s still plenty of room for a disciplined docs piece with just one subject.

Working from court records and a state reprimand, the Minnesota duo found that Stefan Konasiewicz, a highly paid neurosurgeon who practiced in the city for much of the past decade, was the target of nigh on a dozen malpractice suits.

When he moved from Duluth about three years ago, Konasiewicz left behind two dead patients, one woman paralyzed from the neck down and six others who say his treatment caused them serious physical harm.

His former employer, St. Luke’s hospital, was aware of the harm Konasiewicz was alleged to have caused and yet continued to let him practice, according to records obtained and interviews conducted by the News Tribune.

The exhaustive report that follows is a tribute to their investigative tenacity, loaded with quotes from colleagues who long questioned Konasiewicz’ judgment and a careful, painstaking rundown of the malpractice cases filed against the embattled surgeon.

For more on how they searched court records to find malpractice cases, and on why malpractice suits in the state face such high hurdles, see Stahl’s sidebar.

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