A Florida surgeon has landed himself with a $3,000 fine for his part in a back surgery that resulted in a woman’s kidney being accidentally removed, according to a complaint from the State of Florida's Department of Health.
The botched back operation took place in April 2016 at the Wellington Regional Medical Center in Florida. Surgeon Ramon Vasquez was tasked to make an incision on the 51-year-old woman’s back while he was assisting an anterior lumbar interbody fusion surgery alongside two surgeons.
At this point, Vasquez noted an unusual mass near the woman’s pelvis. However, little did he know, the woman had a “pelvic kidney”, a condition where the kidneys fail to ascend to their normal position above the waist and remain in the pelvis. Although the condition can be associated with complications, it’s typically harmless. Vazquez said that he didn't review the woman's medical records because they were not in the hospital at the time, so he was unaware of this key part of her medical history.
Mistaking the pelvic kidney for a cancerous mass, he proceeded to remove the organ without her consent or knowledge.
“As you can imagine, when someone goes in for back surgery, she would never expect to wake up and be told when she’s just waking up from anesthesia, that one of her kidneys has been unnecessarily removed,” the victim’s attorney, Donald Ward, told The Palm Beach Post.
Fortunately, it is perfectly possible to live a healthy life with just one kidney, as people who have donated a kidney are a testament to. It’s estimated that a single kidney working at 75 percent capacity is enough to sustain life.
The woman sued two primary doctors in her operation and received $250,000 from each of them as part of a settlement reached last year.
“Dr Vazquez is an excellent surgeon who has been providing exemplary, often life-saving services in our community for many years,” Michael Burt, the surgeon’s attorney, told the Palm Beach Post.
The Washington Post reports that the Wellington Regional Medical Center have hoped to distance themselves from Vazquez, claiming in a statement that he worked there as an independent physician who has “has never been an employee.”
"Dr Vazquez is no longer on the medical staff of Wellington Regional,” the statement added. “Wellington Regional took all necessary and appropriate steps to review the circumstances of this most unfortunate incident. In the over-30-year history of Wellington Regional Medical Center, an incident of this nature has never occurred before or since.”
The Florida Department of Health has ordered Vasquez to complete “continuing medical education” and asked him to perform a one-hour lecture about wrong-site surgery “to the entire medical staff of the hospital.”