Southeast Florida Medical Malpractice Case Highlights Hospital Risks
If you go into the hospital for routine surgery or even a complex yet specific surgery, should your surgeon be able to perform any other operations while you are under an anesthetic? Does the answer to that question change if the surgeon believes she or he is performing life-saving surgery, even if it is without your consent? And does the answer to that question change if the surgeon was wrong in believing that she or he was performing potentially life-saving surgery?
These are some of the issues in a recent medical malpractice claim recently reported in the Miami Herald. According to that article, a patient entered the Wellington Regional Medical Center to have back surgery to relieve pain from a car accident, and when she awoke from surgery, she learned that her surgeon had removed one of her kidneys—a wrong-site surgery. We want to discuss this case and to consider the surgeon’s liability.
Details of the Case: Surgeon Claims He Believed He Was Performing Life-Saving Surgery
According to the Miami Herald article, the patient entered the healthcare facility to have the bones in her lower back fused, yet that patient left the hospital missing a kidney. The patient filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Health against the surgeon, Dr. Ramon Vazquez in West Palm Beach. The patient alleged that Vazquez needlessly removed her left pelvic kidney.
The surgeon argued that he removed the kidney because he believed it was a malignant mass, and that he was performing a service for the patient. Specifically, Vazquez indicated that he noted a pelvic mass and made his own presumptive diagnosis. Making this diagnosis, Vazquez decided to remove the mass entirely. However, the mass was not actually a mass but was, in fact, the patient’s kidney.
To complicate matters further, Vazquez was not the patient’s back surgeon. The patient filed a medical malpractice lawsuit and settled with Vazquez, yet Vazquez never admitted liability and “does not think he did anything wrong.” The settlement, according to the article, was for a “nominal amount.”
Should the Medical Board Take Disciplinary Action Against Vazquez?
The Florida Department of Health is now investigating Vazquez and attempting to urge the medical board to take disciplinary action against him—a suspension or revocation of his medical license, a term of probation, an administrative fine, and/or other potential disciplinary actions.
Currently, Vazquez’s license is active, and he has no disciplinary record on file. Yet it is important to highlight that this case represents a salient example of a wrong-site surgery, which is a medical mistake cited as being among the most “vivid and terrifying” of the medical errors analyzed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). According to the AHRQ, between 1985 and 2004, wrong-site surgery occurred in about 1 out of every 112,994 cases. In other words, wrong-site surgery is rare in terms of surgical errors, but it is a particularly egregious mistake.
Discuss Your Case with a West Palm Beach Medical Malpractice Attorney
We will need to wait and see whether disciplinary action is taken against Vazquez, but this case is a reminder of the harms of medical errors, particularly wrong-site surgical mistakes. If you or someone you love was harmed by a medical error, you should speak with a West Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer about filing a claim. Contact Lesser Lesser Landy & Smith PLLC for more information.