Analysis & Comment

Florida surgeon mistakes woman’s healthy kidney for tumour, removes it

A Florida woman underwent back surgery and ended up having a healthy kidney removed after a surgeon mistook the organ for a tumour.

In 2016, Maureen Pacheco was scheduled to undergo surgery to have bones in her lower back fused together. She left the hospital missing a vital organ.

“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 kidneys has been unnecessarily removed,” the woman’s lawyer, Donald J. Ward, told the Palm Beach Post.

According to a complaint made by Florida’s Department of Health, when Dr. Ramon Vazquez cut open the then-51-year-old, he noticed a “pelvic mass and provided a presumptive diagnosis” of cancer. The “mass” was removed “in its entirety.”

“He just took my life and just dismissed it,” Pacheco told NBC News. “If he would have looked at the MRIs that were given to him he would have realized.”

Those MRIs showed the woman had a pelvic kidney.

“On or about May 2, 2016, a pathologist at WRMC confirmed the pelvic mass removed by [surgeon] was an intact pelvic kidney,” reads the department of health complaint, adding the removal was “a medically unnecessary procedure.”

Pacheco sued Vazques and two other surgeons for malpractice. The lawsuit was settled in September.

“The case was settled on his behalf for a nominal amount due to the uncertainty of litigation and in no way did Dr. Vazquez admit liability by agreeing to this settlement,” Vazquez’s attorney Mark Mittelmark told the Palm Beach Post.

Vazquez is still employed at the hospital but faces the complaint from Florida’s Department of Health, which could lead to the doctor’s licence being revoked or he could be ordered to pay a fine, the newspaper reported.

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