Heart surgeon Dr. Pervaiz Chaudhry is facing a medical malpractice civil lawsuit trial in Fresno County Superior Court. His patient, Silvino Perez, 76, was left bleeding after heart surgery, eventually losing so much blood that his brain was entirely depleted of oxygen and he’s been left in a permanent vegetative state of comatose, according to attorney Ricardo Echeverria of Claremont. The suit was filed by Perez’s wife and stepson in December 2013.
Echeverria claimed Chaudhry is to blame for the patient’s state because the doctor left the operating room before the surgery had finished. Perez was sewn up by a physician’s assistant prior to being stabilized, in violation of Fresno Community Regional Medical Center policy.
The doctor also violated policy by not having a backup cardiac surgeon present when he left the hospital grounds, according to Echeverria. When Perez turned blue from lack of oxygen, Chaudhry was already half an hour away at a restaurant. He came back to the hospital, but by the time he got there it was too late.
Chaudhry’s defense attorney, Jim Goodman of San Francisco, argued that a review of the evidence by medical experts shows Chaudhry was present until Perez was stable. He stated testimony by medical staff in the operating room that day proves it. “This is a very unfortunate case in which we had an extremely rare complication,” Goodman said. “In every step of the process, he was not in any way negligent. What he did met the standard of care in every instance.”
The surgery was to replace a heart valve and repair a damaged aorta, and went according to plan, according to Goodman. Chaudhry left to go talk to the family while an experienced physician’s assistant he had long worked with sewed up the patient – a normal procedure. The physician then left for his meeting with a fellow heart doctor who was visiting the area. When it became evident that excessive bleeding was occurring, Chaudhry was phoned and he immediately returned to the hospital.
Medical records, cell phone records, and interviews with the surgery team show excessive bleeding was a problem from the start, the family’s attorney said. “Mr. Perez continued to bleed and bleed. The problem caused “pure chaos” in the operating room. Before Chaudhry returned, the physician’s assistant reopened the chest, massaged his heart and tried to hook him up to a heart-lung machine while on the phone with Chaudhry for instructions, but was unsuccessful. Goodman argued that even if Chaudhry had stayed at the hospital, “the same massive bleeding would have occurred.”
Chaudhry, one of the busiest cardiac surgeons in the state, was the medical director for cardiothoracic surgery at both Community Regional Medical Center and Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital at the time of Perez’s procedure. Echeverria said the surgeon was “spread too thin” by both a demanding caseload and his professional responsibilities.
The trial is scheduled to go through March 2018. Meanwhile, Valeria Villalobos, a manager at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital has filed a related lawsuit, claiming she was punished with a layoff after complaining that Chaudhry had left the operating room. Villalobos was later rehired but then chose to resign.