Surgeon mistakes patient’s healthy kidney for tumour, removes it

In a rare case of medical malpractice, a surgeon has mistaken the healthy kidney of his patient for a tumour, removing it in the process.

The patient, a Florida woman, is taking action after she went in for a routine back surgery and left with one less kidney.

Maureen Pacheco was in her early 50s when a surgeon mistook her healthy kidney for a cancerous tumor on the operating table in April 2016, the Palm Beach Post reported.

During the procedure, Dr. Ramon Vazques saw her kidney, believed it was a tumour, declared an emergency and took it out, said an administrative complaint made by Florida’s Department of Health.

Vazques could now face a range of penalties — from losing his license to only paying a fine, the complaint said.

The Palm Beach Post reported that Vasques wasn’t even the surgeon assigned to perform the back surgery but was brought in to make the incision for the other surgeons to perform the scheduled surgery.

The woman had suffered back pain for years following a car accident she had been involved in.

“As you can imagine, when someone goes in for a back surgery, she would never expect to wake up and be told when she’s just waking up from anesthesia, that one of her kidney’s has been unnecessarily removed,” said Pacheco’s attorney, Donald J. Ward.

Florida’s Department of Health has now filed an administrative complaint against Vazquez, who has served as chairman of surgery at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center since January and has privileges at St. Mary’s and Good Samaritan medical centers as well as Bethesda Memorial Hospital.

“Few medical errors are as vivid and terrifying as those that involve patients who have undergone surgery on the wrong body part,” according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Such mistakes are deemed “never events” ‒ meaning they should never occur.


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