It is inevitable that physicians will sometimes make errors, even when they have been properly trained and are using reasonable caution. This is because they are human beings capable of human error. Likewise, doctors sometimes find themselves in situations where, by the time the patient gets to them, anything the doctor does or does not do carries a high risk of making the patient worse, and the doctor has the unenviable task of quickly deciding what will cause the least amount of harm. Thus, most physicians carry risk management insurance to pay claims from patients about medical errors. Likewise, in medical malpractice lawsuits, the plaintiff must prove that the physician breached the standard of care. Other doctors in the same subspecialty review the patient’s medical records and decide whether the doctor acted irresponsibly or whether the patient’s negative outcome was unavoidable. Many medical malpractice cases are about the gray area where it is very hard to tell if there was anything the doctor could have done to give the patient a better outcome. On the other hand, though, some medical malpractice lawsuits are about “never events,” mistakes so big and so preventable that a doctor should never make them in his or her career.
The Never Event That Cost Maureen Pacheco Her Kidney
On April 29, 2016, Maureen Pacheco, 51, underwent back surgery at Wellington Regional Medical Center. She had been suffering from back pain for years, and the purpose of the surgery was to fuse several bones in her spine in order to reduce the pain. The surgery would be done through an incision in her abdomen; a general surgeon, Dr. Ramon Vazquez, opened her up and then two specialist surgeons performed the bone fusion. Pacheco was a longtime patient of the specialist surgeons, but she first met Dr. Vazquez on the day of the surgery.
While performing his part of the surgery, namely, giving the specialist surgeons access to Pacheco’s spine, Dr. Vazquez found and removed what he thought was a cancerous tumor. It turned out to be a healthy kidney. Pacheco’s kidneys were lower in her body than most people’s are; so-called pelvic kidneys are a normal variation. Pacheco’s medical records from before the surgery include two MRIs showing the location of her kidneys; if Vazquez had read these records, he would have known that what he found was a kidney. Pacheco filed a malpractice complaint, and all three surgeons settled without admitting wrongdoing; she received about $500,000 total in damages. The Florida Department of Health filed a complaint against Vazquez because of this egregious error. Vazquez may face disciplinary action, though, and could even lose his medical license.
Let Us Help You Today
If your ill health is due to a surgeon’s error during surgery, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit related to the error. Contact Palm Beach County medical malpractice attorneys at Smith, Ball & Báez Injury Lawyers for a consultation.