HMS Prof Faces Suit Over Article

Harvard Medical School professor Douglas P. Kiel is facing a lawsuit because of an article he published in the July 2007 issue of the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA).

In the study, Kiel, a gerontologist, said that hip protectors are not effective in preventing injuries among elderly patients, a claim challenged by HipSaver, a popular hip protector manufacturer, in a suit filed in Norfolk Superior Court on Feb. 15.

Representatives for HipSaver accuse Kiel of deliberately using one particular type of hip protector that is inferior to many of the protectors on the market and concluding that all hip protectors were not effective.

HipSaver’s president, Edward L. Goodwin, said in an interview that it was scientifically inaccurate for the conclusions of Kiel’s study to be applied to hip protectors in general.

Robert L. Hernandez, who is representing HipSaver, described Kiel’s article as “disparaging” and “grandiose.”

“The question is, can someone testing the lowest end of a relatively new product conclude that all designs are poor?” Hernandez said.

Both Kiel and a spokesman for the peer-reviewed journal, one of the world’s leading medical publications, declined to comment.

Studies in the past have shown conflicting results as to the effectiveness of hip protectors, Goodwin said. But the manufacturer said that previous articles that were critical of hip protectors had made a clear distinction that their conclusions were restricted to hard-padded hip protectors. HipSaver’s models are soft-padded.

“The difficulty is that all of the media picked up on the abstract,” Goodwin said.

“Some of the old customers have stopped buying,” Goodwin said, adding that he has heard of at least one other hip protector company “having difficulties.”

Stating that there has been both experimental and anecdotal evidence in favor of HipSaver’s products, Goodwin likened Kiel’s article to “studying one automobile, finding negative results, and concluding that all automobiles are no good.”

Members of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard-affiliated hospital where Kiel works, also declined to comment about the suit or Kiel’s research.