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Surgeon Accidentally Removes A Patient’s Healthy Kidney

Maureen Pacheco underwent back surgery at Wellington Regional Medical Center to have bones in her back fused after a severe car accident. Dr. Ramon Vasquez was the surgeon who performed the procedure. According to Pacheco’s attorney, she was stunned when she awoke after the procedure and found out one of her kidneys was “unnecessarily removed.” It is believed that Dr. Vasquez thought the kidney was a potentially cancerous growth. Vasquez is an established surgeon who oversaw the surgical department at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. The state’s medical board is reviewing the matter and is considering penalties after the Florida Department of Health filed a formal complaint. This is an example of a “never” event, which is a term used to describe these horrific types of medical mistakes.

Surgical Mistake

Vazquez’s attorney says that the case is being settled for an undisclosed amount. His client chose to settle the matter; however, he said that his client’s agreement is not an admission of fault. A “presumptive diagnosis” was apparently made during the surgery when the surgeon encountered what he thought was a cancerous growth. The kidney was severed and a pathologist later discovered the error. The agency investigators said that the procedure was clearly not medically necessary.

No Informed Consent

Medical providers are required to obtain patient consent when conducting medical treatment. Vazquez clearly never received consent to remove the organ from Pacheco. The defense places responsibility for the mistake on the hospital facility by saying that he was not informed that the patient had a pelvic kidney. Experts explain that those with only one kidney tend to have a slightly shorter life span.

Cancerous Pelvic Masses

  • Roughly 5 to 10% of U.S. women will have an adnexal or pelvic mass detected during their lives.
  • The majority are noncancerous (benign) and a small percentage are cancerous (malignant).
  • The likelihood of the growth being malignant rises as women age.
  • They are more likely among postmenopausal women.
  • When these growths become larger in size they can impose on other organs in the region.
  • Symptoms include a feeling of “fullness,” pain, bowel problems, and abnormal bleeding.

Never Events: Object Left Inside Patient

Another type of “never” event is when some object is left inside the body of a surgical patient. These are often referred to as “retained surgical items” The most common items include needles and sponges. Roughly 21% of items are surgical tools such as scalpels and screws. Items left behind may take years to be recognized. These items are a potential cause of harmful bacteria and may be fatal in approximately 1% of incidents. One study that analyzed the period from 2014 to 2015 revealed that about 112 cases were reported across the country.

Never Events: Wrong Body Part Surgical Mistakes

Inadvertent removal of a body part in surgery is among the most devastating “never” events. The medical community has been continuously implementing procedures that prevent these types of events. Wrong site surgical errors are estimated to occur in hospitals every five to ten years. When claims of medical malpractice arise from these mistakes they are likely to result in large settlements or verdicts.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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