Final Verdict: Poor Surgical Planning Causes Death
Of all members of the medical profession, surgeons probably hold the largest amount of responsibility and command the greatest respect. Planning for a surgical procedure requires an in-depth knowledge of the patient’s condition, the exact steps to be taken, and any possible complications that may arise. Patients expect that a doctor recommending surgery has reviewed all the evidence in order to make the best possible determination.
Medical malpractice claims can arise when the proper steps are not taken and the patient is harmed as a result. Although doctors should never make serious mistakes, some mistakes are inevitable. The question is not whether a mistake happened, but whether the mistake resulted in serious, avoidable harm to the patient. It is not enough to say that a different doctor could have performed a given procedure with greater skill; in order to bring a successful medical malpractice claim, a medical malpractice attorney must show that preventable mistakes caused unanticipated complications with measurable injuries.
64-year-old Robert Suryadeth had been experiencing back problems for quite some time as the result of a disabling workplace injury, and sought outpatient surgery spinal surgery. The surgery was intended to give him some relief for his constant back pain, but was not pressing. Before doing so, he went to Family Medicine & Rehabilitation Center, the company of his primary care physician, Enoh Edet Akpanak, to be cleared. However, Dr. Akpanak was out of the country at the time, and so Robert was instead examined by Aruna Paspula, an internist at the practice. Dr. Paspula, who had never treated Robert before, performed an electrocardiogram, listened to his heart with a stethoscope, and concluded he could be cleared for the surgery.
Unfortunately, this mistake cost Robert his life. Robert already had risk factors for coronary artery disease and had been seen repeatedly by a cardiologist for valvular heart disease. When he went in for surgery on October 9, 2013, the stress resulted in occlusion of the coronary artery vessels, and he died of a heart attack at home just hours after being released from surgery.
Robert’s estate retained medical malpractice attorneys, who sued Dr. Akpandak and Dr. Paspula for medical malpractice and wrongful death. They argued that the electrocardiogram showed abnormal results and that Dr. Paspula should have referred him to a cardiologist for clearance. Had she done so, they claimed, the cardiologist would have recommended stents for the blocked arteries, which would have protected him during the surgery.
During the five-day trial, attorneys for Dr. Akpandak and Dr. Paspula disputed the interpretation of the electrocardiogram and argued that he showed Dr. Paspula no signs of coronary artery disease when she examined him. They said there was no reason to refer him for a cardiology consultation and questioned whether the surgery was actually the cause of the cardiac event. However, the Montgomery County, Maryland jury didn’t buy it. They found the physicians responsible for medical malpractice, failure to refer, and wrongful death, and awarded the estate and Robert’s family members the sum of $644,329 in total damages. Cohen & Cohen