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New Jersey Patients Beware: Wrong Site Surgeon Who Removed Healthy Lung Returns to Hoboken

New Jersey Patients Beware: Wrong Site Surgeon Who Removed Healthy Lung Returns to Hoboken

Friday, June 18th, 2010

In June 2008, surgeon Santusht Perera, practicing at Meadowlands Hospital in Secaucus, N.J., had his medical license suspended for only 2 years after performing wrong-site surgery –  in which he removed a healthy portion of his patient’s right lung rather than the diseased portion of his left lung and then he altered the medical records to try to cover up his gross malpractice. The two-year suspension was abbreviated when the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners granted the doctor’s request to shorten his suspension (to six months). Perera is once again working, now at New Jersey’s Hoboken Medical Center.

Following hearings, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners found and concluded that Dr. Perera engaged in two distinct acts of gross negligence in treating Richard Flagg when he (1) needlessly removed the middle and lower lobes of the patients right lung (rather than his left lung where a carcinoid tumor had been identified) during an operation on September 5, 2000 and (2) by failing to have recognized and corrected his error (by, among other items, failing to order a repeat CAT scan) prior to commencing the operation.”

The Board further found “that Dr. Perera deliberately altered the medical record he maintained for R.F. (specifically, a note dated August 29, 2000) so as to make it appear that his decision to perform right sided surgery was intentional, rather than a product of physician error.”

What made the surgeon’s actions especially outrageous was how he told his patient that the right lower and middle lobes had to be removed because he’d found a more serious lesion there – but about six months later when Mr. Flagg picked up his medical records for a new doctor, he saw the pathology reports that showed that to be a lie, that in fact the tissue was healthy.  This deception caused Mr.Flagg to delay seeking other treatment options, and when he finally did, it was too late.

Although Perera appealed the Board’s initial decision, that decision was upheld.  But when Perera applied to have his license back sooner, the Board granted it saying:

“…we ordered that the respondent’s license was to be suspended for a period of two years,the first six months of which (at a minimum) were to be served as a period of active suspension and the remainder of which was to be stayed and served as a period of probation.  We additionally assessed a civil penalty in the amount of $30,000. and assessed costs in the amount of $51,273.10 and ordered that during the period of active suspension, respondent fully attend and successfully complete a course acceptable to the Board in medical record keeping and medical ethics…”

But the most shocking finding of all:

“…respondent also does not presently accept responsibility for mistakes on his part (other than for having failed to do a repeat CAT scan prior to performing the operation on R.F. and acknowledging that his records were not as complete as they could have been), nor does he appear to demonstrate remorse for the events which occurred and the subsequent death of R.F.”

“The Board expressly notes that it finds respondent’s failure to presently accept responsibility for the conduct which respondent was found to have engaged in, and his apparent failure to show remorse for the events which occurred, to be disturbing.”

Mr. Flagg’s family and close friends are outraged by the findings and decision and all are shocked that Hoboken Medical Center is allowing Perera to operate there.

So too should everyone else who relies upon the Board and hospital administrators to guard  the health and safety of consumers of medical services.  Is it any wonder that the decision was rendered by a physician, Paul C. Mendelowitz, M.D., president of the Board of Medical Examiners?  What does this say about how doctors police themselves?   Perhaps they could adopt the motto: “By Doctors For Doctors.”

The hospital’s CEO said they had little choice but to allow him to practice surgery there since his license suspension is over. The hospital further suggested that it risked a lawsuit if they denied him surgery privileges now, because he had surgery privileges at Hoboken prior to his suspension.

New Jersey consumers of medical services, BEWARE.  If the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners exists to protect consumers of medical services, they’ve failed.

Read the case in full at http://www.nj.gov/lps/ca/bme/orders/20081204_PERERAS.pdf
Category: Medical Malpractice
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