A doctor accidentally removed a healthy kidney from a patient during an operation to fix her lower back pain as he mistook the organ for a dangerous tumor.
53-year-old Maureen Pacheco had been suffering from lower back pain for years after a car accident. But in April 2016, she discussed the option of surgery at Wellington Regional Medical Center in Florida with Dr. Ramon Vazquez, a highly qualified surgeon.
Dr. Vazquez, who has decades of experience, recommended having bones in the area fused together. The surgery involved opening her up and an orthopedic surgeon would fuse the bones.
But when Dr. Vazquez was about to step aside, he noticed a mass in the Pachecho’s pelvis and declared an emergency. He went on and removed Pacheco’s kidney before letting his colleagues proceed.
It turned out that Dr. Vazquez didn’t see two MRI scans taken before the operation showing the patient had a pelvic kidney due to a harmless but uncommon birth defect.
Upon waking up from anesthesia, Pacheco was told that the doctors had mistakenly removed her healthy kidney.
The case provoked a 2-year legal battle, which settled in September for over $500,000. But now that Pacheco has only one kidney, she is at risk of chronic kidney disease and renal failure.
Her primary surgeons who were supposed to fuse the bones in her lower back, Dr. Jeffrey Kugler and Dr. John Britt, settled for $250,000 each.
Dr. Vazquez’s attorney, Mark Mittlemark, wrote to the Palm Beach Post that his client settled for a ‘nominal account’.
The Health Department also said that Dr. Vazquez didn’t have malpractice insurance, unlike the other two surgeons.
The maximum amount that he would be required to pay is $250,000, according to 2018 Florida Statutes.
As a claim to cancel his license continues, Dr. Vazquez is still practicing. He has been appointed the chairman of surgery at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center this year and maintains staff privileges at St. Mary’s Medical Center, Bethesda Memorial Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospital.
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