A Surgeon Performing Back Surgery Mistakenly Removes A Kidney Thinking It Was A Tumor

Florida woman Maureen Pacheco has sued surgeon Ramon Vazquez after he mistakenly removed her kidney during back surgery. At the time, the doctor believed what he was removing was a tumor.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Maureen Pacheco went in for back surgery after suffering for years as a result of a car accident. The operation was scheduled on April 29, 2016, and would fuse together bones in her lower back.

Pacheco met Dr. Ramon Vazquez as she was readied for surgery. It was his responsibility to open her up in order for two orthopedic surgeons, Dr. John Britt and Dr. Jeffrey Kugler, to perform the delicate operation. Vazquez then went on to identify one of the woman’s fully functioning kidneys as a tumor and had it removed.

A month later a pathologist at Wellington Regional identified the “tumor” as an “intact pelvic kidney.” This meant that the kidney was not in the usual position as it had not descended completely during fetal development. However, two MRIs had identified this pelvic kidney prior to the surgery.

“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,” said Pacheco’s attorney, Donald J. Ward.

As part of Pacheco’s malpractice lawsuit against Vazquez, she is claiming she had no say in whether or not the surgical removal should be performed.

Florida’s Department of Health has also filed an administrative complaint against Ramon Vazquez. As the Palm Beach Post points out, this action could result in various outcomes. His punishment could be as minor as Vazquez receiving a fine for the incorrect diagnosis and resulting erroneous surgery. On the other end of the scale, his penalty could include a loss of his medical license.

And, for those that are wondering if Ramon Vazquez was an inexperienced surgeon, the Palm Beach Post points out that he serves “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.” Prior to this mishap, he had an unblemished disciplinary record.

“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.

According to NBC Connecticut, 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 said in an email according to the Palm Beach Post.

In addition, “Dr. John Britt and Dr. Jeffrey Kugler, settled for $250,000 apiece, according to the Department of Insurance Regulation.”