Doctor fails to read test results, performs unnecessary surgery and gets sued.
A lawsuit was recently filed after a patient in her mid-40s with tubal ligation went to Dr OB (who hasn’t been identified) after suffering from lower left abdominal pain. She had been in the emergency department ten days prior, and an ultrasound at this follow-up appointment showed an empty uterus with some fluid around her ovary. Earlier, Dr. OB’s office had put a positive serum pregnancy test in the woman’s chart, causing Dr. OB to assess for ectopic pregnancy. However, the report was placed in her file by error.
The woman agreed to have surgery that day and went to the emergency department after consenting to an “operative laparoscopy for ectopic pregnancy with possible partial salpingectomy.” In his note, the emergency room physician then documented the patient’s pain. He also wrote, “Risk factors consist of pregnancy.” From a blood sample ordered at the hospital later that afternoon, however, the patient tested negative for pregnancy. Meanwhile, Dr. OB performed the procedure and did not learn of the negative results until after.
Dr. OB did not discover an ectopic pregnancy but noted that he removed a cyst and performed an endometrial curettage to remove possible remnants of conception. When he discovered the error, he had to disclose this to the woman.
The patient fared well following the surgery but elicited the help of an attorney to file a claim alleging that Dr. OB “failed to follow up on a pregnancy test that he had ordered before surgery, performed an unnecessary surgery, and committed a battery by exceeding her consent.” The case was resolved without extensive litigation.
Unnecessary surgeries are actually quite common, according to a new report from the nonpartisan healthcare organization Lown Institute, which suggests, “Whether or not you really even need this care ought to be one of the fundamental pillars of what quality means. But there has not been a national framework in which, for example, the Joint Commission on Accreditation, or NQF…really made this a fundamental plank of their mission.”
Sometimes, these surgeries are purposely completed without reason so the medical provider can get an insurance pay out. Last year, the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia was in the hot seat after a nurse, Dawn Wooten, filed a whistleblower complaint that detainees had told her they’d had their uteruses removed without their informed consent. The center released records of all women who had felt they were treated unfairly, and 16 were found to have been concerned with the care they received. All were treated by Dr. Mahendra Amin, who has been referred to by ICE officials as the detention center’s “primary gynecologist.”
Dr. Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, said the allegations “raise some very serious concerns that deserve to be investigated quickly and thoroughly.” She added, “If there is any truth to these allegations, it is my commitment to make the corrections necessary to ensure we continue to prioritize the health, welfare and safety of ICE detainees.”