Florida Board of Medicine fines Broward surgeon for wrong-organ removal

06/08/2010 // West Palm Beach, Florida, USA // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan

Broward County, FL—A bizarre case, in which a surgeon removed a patient’s healthy kidney as opposed to his gallbladder, prompted the Florida Board of Medicine to fine the doctor $5,000. The verdict will force the doctor to complete 50 hours of community service and reimburse the state $25,000 for investigation and prosecution fees. The ruling was announced Friday, June 4, 2010, according to information provided by the Miami Herald.

In October 2007, an 83-year-old man reported to Northwest Medical Center in Margate to have his gallbladder removed. However, the patient’s atypical anatomy and previous operations contributed to a serious medical blunder.

Since the patient’s kidney was situated where his gallbladder should have been, Bernard Zaragoza, a surgeon from Coral Springs, mistakenly removed the elderly man’s kidney. The man, merely identified as J.C., suffered heart failure three weeks after the operation.

It was also noted that past abdominal surgical procedures left internal scar tissue. The residual scar tissue created a blind spot for the surgeon, forcing him to perform the operation at strange angle for the tools he was using.

According to Zaragoza, “I was completely mortified… It’s a complication I have never heard of, dreamed of, or imagined could happen.”

While the attorney representing Zaragoza in the case contended the accidental kidney removal was a “complication of surgery,” members of the state regulatory board thought otherwise.

Though board members sympathized, Hearing Officer Larry J. Sartin maintained that the unintended kidney removal does meet the criteria of a complication of a gallbladder removal. By removing the wrong organ, Zaragoza violated the medical malpractice act, Sartin added.

Zaragoza’s lawyer alleges the reimbursement of $25,000 was unreasonable, as he was not at fault. Nonetheless, “If I could make these costs go away, I would… But we just cant,” board member Dr. Jason Rosenberg said.

Legal News Reporter: Sandra Quinlan- Legal News for Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyers.

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