Medical errors are now the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Only cancer and heart disease claim more victims. Some medical errors are worse than others. It’s safe to say that the needless removal of a vital organ is right up there with the worst and most offensive and shocking. Such was the case in West Palm Beach in 2016, and although the victim didn’t die, a Florida surgeon made a grievous medical error that cost a woman her kidney.
According to the Florida Board of Medicine, West Palm Beach surgeon Ramon Vazquez accidentally removed patient Maureen Pacheco’s kidney. Vazquez’ job was to open the patient up during the Wellington Regional Medical Center procedure, after which ortho surgeons were to perform a spinal fusion on her to relieve her lower back pain.
During the procedure, Vazquez noticed what he believed to be cancer in her pelvic region and removed the “mass.” Only later did he realize that the mass wasn’t a mass at all, but a kidney that had never ascended into Pacheco’s abdomen. The condition, known as a pelvic kidney, is rare but was noted on her medical charts and well-documented in her medical history. The Florida Health Department, in a complaint filed against Vazquez in 2017, noted that the “cancer diagnosis was not related to the patient’s medical condition and therefore medically unnecessary” for the “mass” to be removed in the first place.
Patients have the expectancy that doctors and surgeons familiarize themselves with their medical histories and medical records prior to treatment. But that’s not always the case. An expert who reviewed this case noted that Vasquez deviated from the acceptable standard of care in this case, since he should have reviewed Pacheco’s X-rays prior to surgery and he should have also biopsied the “mass” prior to removing it.
The standard of care in medical malpractice cases is the acceptable behavior that a similar medical professional would have exhibited in the same situation and with the same training. When medical professionals fall outside this normative of care, medical malpractice occurs.
Wrong-site surgeries are rare, with most hospitals experiencing an incident of this type every five to 10 years, according to a study in 2006 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. This type of medical error is known as a “never event” because of its infrequency. Nationwide, there are around 4,000 such rare events each year, with wrong-site surgeries, wrong-patient surgeries and wrong-procedure surgeries being among the most frequent, surpassed only by falls and unintended retention of a foreign body in the patient following a surgical procedure.
When the very professionals we trust to make us better cause us harm, they can be held accountable. If you have experienced medical malpractice, contact us right away to arrange a case review. Our Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney can answer your questions and help you weigh the legal options available to you based on your specific circumstances.