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Doctor accused of fatal surgical errors surrendered license

A journalist working on a story regarding disciplining doctors for mistakes in his state contacted a family last year regarding the death of their loved one back in 2011. According to the journalist, serious surgical errors were committed during a heart valve repair and bypass procedure. As many families in Oregon might have done, the family recently filed a lawsuit against the doctor and the medical facility where their loved one died.

In Aug. 2011, the 77-year-old man underwent the procedure. He suffered from severe blood loss and died the next day. An investigation conducted in 2013 by the medical board in the state where the man died indicated that he was left on the heart-lung machine for an excessive amount of time because the surgeon continued to attempt to harvest an artery for the bypass instead of switching gears and taking a vein instead. A second patient of the same surgeon, a 61-year-old woman, also died in July 2011 after being left on the machine too long because the surgeon continued to attempt to repair a heart valve instead of replacing it with an artificial one. 

That means that two patients of the seven that the surgeon operated on at the Wisconsin hospital died, which prompted the hospital to bring in a consultant to review all of the surgeries performed by the doctor in the short time he was with the hospital. In Oct. 2011, the hospital fired him. The inquiry resulted in the medical board's investigation. In 2014, the surgeon surrendered his license in that state. At last report, he was still practicing medicine in New York state.

Like Oregon, Wisconsin has a statute of limitations for the filing of wrongful death claims arising out of surgical errors. However, an exception in the law gave the family a year to file its claim because the original incident had not occurred more than five years prior to when they discovered what really happened to their loved one. Even though such an exception might exist, it would be in a family's best interests to seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible after an unexpected death during a surgical procedure to determine whether any mistakes were made that might have led to the loss of a loved one.

Source: host.madison.com, "Family sues Meriter over death after surgery by doctor who was fired", David Wahlberg, Aug. 16, 2016

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