Tragic story here about a lieutenant from a Sheriff’s Department who was severely incapacitated after he underwent bariatric surgery in 2007. The details of his care and treatment are appalling.
After being told that a weight-loss surgery would be “less risky” than continuing to live in his physical state (he was 6’1″ and 375 lbs), a once active and contributing member of society now remains confined to a wheelchair, brain-damaged and blind, but completely aware of what he once was and what he is now.
How could this happen you might ask? Well, when your surgeon is unaccredited and has performed less than half of the required number of surgeries to become accredited, you find yourself with a major case of malpractice. Furthermore, the surgeon was required to have at least twenty hours of bariatric education courses, yet he had only taken one.
None of this stopped the hospital from holding themselves out as having an accredited “Bariatric Surgery Center,” which amounted to fraud. The victim’s attorney said that the hospital sold the illusion that they had a “team” of doctors and nurses, committed to bariatrics. On the day of surgery, the man found this to be untrue when, in the middle of about ten pages of documents, he found a paragraph stating that “we are all independent and nobody’s a team.”
The day after having undergone gastric bypass surgery, the lieutenant collapsed in respiratory failure and was placed into critical care. For eight days, he showed signs of complication, where fluids from the bowels leaked into his abdomen. The hospital’s own experts later stated that most bariatric doctors would have taken a patient back into surgery as soon as the patient showed symptoms, and no later than on the sixth day after surgery. But yet, he wasn’t taken in for eight days.
At one point during the ordeal, his blood pressure dropped to the point where he suffered a “low-flow” stroke and went comatose for over two weeks. During this time, he was on a respirator, though no lubricate eye drops were given to him, which burned his retina and caused permanent loss of eyesight. The lieutenant can no longer speak intelligently and he cannot walk, feed, or clean and bathe himself.
At the time of the surgery, the hospital was using an accreditation seal on a series of pamphlets given to potential surgery patients. The seal was also found on many documents that the surgeon was using when speaking at informational forums at the hospital. Those pamphlets were later considered acts of fraud by the jury. In its verdict, the jury said that the hospital knowingly allowed the surgeon to perform paid surgeries that he was not accredited for.
While the verdict of $178 million dollars will pay for the $250,000 a year in medical bills he now has, the victim has said he would trade it all to be the man he once was. I can’t fathom that anyone would feel otherwise. Of course, it is also unrealistic to expect to collect $178 million on this claim for lots of reasons, in spite of the jury verdict. (One hint: HCA, which owns the hospital, continues to see their stock soar since hitting their recent lows last summer (look at them today – I don’t think they are too worried about lawsuits).
The surgeon, who is now accredited, is still performing bariatric surgeries at the hospital. Which, of course, is beyond incredible.