A woman recently won a lawsuit in North Carolina over complications that arose during surgery to remove segments of her colon. The woman suffered ongoing problems including infections, kidney failure, and internal bleeding. Our team of medical malpractice lawyers examines this lawsuit and the types of surgical malpractice claims we handle.
In 2010, Melode Dickerson underwent surgery to remove part of her colon because of potentially-cancerous masses. Her surgeon, Florias Andrew Morfesis of Owen Drive Surgical, incorrectly connected the remaining parts of her colon, leaving a tear and consequent leakage.
After the procedure, Dickerson became severely ill for months, suffering from dangerously low blood pressure, infections, internal bleeding, and kidney failure, for which she spent weeks in the hospital. Dickerson underwent two more surgeries to correct the leakage, without success. Finally, five months after her first surgery, a colonoscopy identified the leak, at the same location where Dr. Morfesis reconnected the colon together.
To this day, Dickerson suffers chronic pain and other ailments. She and her husband filed suit against Dr. Morfesis and another treating doctor. A jury awarded them $7.24 million in damages: $4 million for her pain and suffering; $3.24 million in economic losses; and $300,000 to her husband for his loss of consortium.
Quality over Quantity
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The healthcare industry, like any other, is driven by innovation, competition, and public demand. Hospitals throughout the country feel the need to keep a leg-up on the competition by offering new areas of surgical specialties with high tech equipment. Facilities hope to maximize profits by offering services to patients who have high-quality insurance that will offer them the best possible reimbursements.
As a result of this practice, hospitals buy new, high-tech surgical tools (think: Da Vinci Surgical Systems) and launched highly-specialized surgical programs. This does not necessarily lead to the best patient outcomes, and often has disastrous consequences.
Nowhere was this more prevalent than in South Florida, at St. Mary’s Medical Center. The hospital established a pediatric heart surgery program in 2011, though heart defects affect under 1% of births per year in the U.S., and only about a quarter of those babies require surgery. Since 2011, St. Mary’s has done just over 132 heart procedures on 90 babies.
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By 2013, the death rate for babies at this hospital undergoing heart surgery was three times the national average. The hospital did not tell families that it had higher-than-normal mortality rates, that its program was incredibly new, or it was under investigation. It failed to tell patients that the surgeries could have been done at already well-established facilities in Southern Florida, with specialized pediatric cardiovascular teams, averaging hundreds surgeries per year. We wrote extensively on this hospital and its consequent malpractice lawsuits here.
St. Mary’s has since suspended its optional pediatric congenital heart surgeries. There remain questions about the need for the hospital to provide the service at all. Programs that handle such a small number of patients are often not up-to-speed on advances, and are largely unlikely to innovate or pioneer any advances in the field. Higher-volume hospitals also generally have lower costs.
Many believe hospitals wanting to establish new areas of specialty should be subject to greater scrutiny before it can open proving its ability to achieve good clinical results, and a high community demand for such services.
The medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have been working on these types of cases for 30 years, winning millions for injured patients and their families. If you or someone you love was seriously injured or killed by medical negligence, contact our firm immediately for a free case review.