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Filing Malpractice Lawsuits When Weight Loss Surgeries Go Wrong

Mar 2, 2018 | Surgical Errors

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According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), in 2014, approximately 193,000 people in the United States had bariatric surgery.

It’s estimated that accounting for 51.7% of weight loss surgeries, sleeve gastrectomy, a procedure in which about 80% of the stomach is removed, was found to be the most common type of operation, followed by gastric bypass accounting for 26.8%, gastric band accounting for 9.5%, and Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (BPD/DS) accounting for 0.4%.

In 2016, a total of 216,000 bariatric surgeries was performed in the US. There has been a steady increase in the number of bariatric surgeries performed each year – 158,000 in 2011, 173,000 in 2012, 173,000 in 2013, 193,000 in 2014 and 196,000 in 2015.

Widows Files Lawsuit When Husband Died of Lap-Band Surgery

A woman from Lodi, CA, filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against multiple doctors as well as an ambulatory surgery center, claiming that her husband died after a surgical procedure to remove a gastric Lap-Band was performed.

According to a lawsuit filed in Bregen County Superior Court, on June 2nd, 2015, 61-year old Jay Clauss died at a local hospital a short time after he underwent an operation. He had been admitted to Florham Park Surgical Center earlier that day to have the adjustable band removed. The Lap-Band is placed around the stomach as a weight loss aid to restrict food intake.

The suit stated that Clauss suffered a cardiac arrest at some point while he was in the center, resulting in his death, and that he suffered severe injuries and unbearable pain.

Barry A. Knopf, who filed the suit, said that the gastric Lap-Band was inserted a few years earlier and it had helped Clauss in losing weight. However, after regaining some of the weight, the attorney said that Clauss was having a second operation to insert a second band.

The Bariatric Surgery Source reports that about 9% of bariatric patients need to remove their Lap-Band for a number of different reasons, including erosion of the band and inadequate weight loss.

The surgical center and a number of doctors affiliated with the facility were named as defendants in the lawsuit. According to court documents, Vickie Clauss, the victim’s wife, claimed negligence and departures from accepted medical standards of care were the cause of her husband’s death.

Knopf said that medical staff told Vickie Clauss that she would be able to speak to her husband in a half hour after he was removed from the OR. However, he went into cardiac arrest in the recovery room and was pronounced dead at a local hospital that he was transported to.

According to the suit, Clauss’ wife tried to obtain her husband’s medical records from the Florham Park Surgical Center a couple of months after his death, but was made to wait over one year before she was told that the records had been transferred to Edward Cienki, the center’s attorney. The suit further stated that Vickie Clauss’ attorneys were told that the records had been transferred to Douglas McGill, the center’s bankruptcy lawyer.

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Vickie Clauss obtained the medical records of her husband only in May of 2017. The suit was filed on May 31st.

Court documents showed that on April 11th, 2016, Florham Park Surgical Center filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, listing over $2 million in debt.

Increase in Bariatric Surgeries

As mentioned earlier, thousands of bariatric surgeries are performed each year in the US. A large percentage of patients who undergo these procedures will come through the surgery just fine and are likely to experience only the usual complications and a few adverse effects such as nausea, fatigue, pain and tenderness on the surgical site as they go through the healing process.

For some patients, though, bariatric surgery – a procedure that is usually performed as a last-ditch effort to shed a few pounds and get healthy – results in more harm than good. Bariatric operations are complicated surgical procedures, and unfortunately, errors or malpractice on a surgeon’s part significantly increases the risk of serious complications or injury.

With the obesity rate in the US continuing to rise, weight loss surgeries, such as gastric bypass, are becoming more common. In most cases, bariatric surgery will lead to rapid, sustainable weight loss and help in resolving obesity-related health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type II diabetes.

For a number of patients, these benefits outweigh the risks that come with invasive bariatric surgeries such as vertical sleeve gastrectomy, duodenal switch, gastric bypass (also known as Roux en Y gastric bypass, or RNY), distal gastric bypass, adjustable gastric banding or Biliopancreatic diversion.

If you are considering any one of these surgeries to help you lose weight, you should remember to conduct thorough research before you choose a surgeon or hospital to perform the procedure. This is the best way to make sure that the bariatric surgery goes smoothly and you do not have to worry about injury or complications resulting from the surgeon or other medical professional’s negligence.

Criteria for Bariatric Surgery

You must bear in mind that bariatric surgeries, like gastric bypass, adjustable gastric banding, etc., are not a "quick fix" for obesity. You are required to meet exacting criteria before a physician decides if you should have a bariatric procedure done. These criteria include:

· Having a minimum body mass index (BMI) of 40 – or a minimum 35 BMI with one or more serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or other what are referred to as "comorbidities"

· Complying with a weight loss plan that is medically supervised

· Going through a psychological exam

· Having a number of pre-surgical lab tests

· Meeting with one or more medical professionals who make up the bariatric support team of the patient – this team can include a bariatric surgeon, pharmacist, nurse, dietician, nutritionist or exercise consultant

A surgeon can decide which bariatric procedure is appropriate and most suitable to meet the needs of the patient only after these criteria have been met and the circumstances of the patient performing the wrong procedure on a patient – for example, performing a gastric bypass when an adjustable gastric banding would have been the better procedure given the patient’s unique medical history – could end up being just as life-threatening as keeping the excess weight.

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Risks Associated with Bariatric Surgery

As with any surgery, bariatric procedures come with certain risks, including infection, adverse reactions to anesthesia, blood clots, formation of excessive scar tissue, hypoxia, leaking of the intestines or the new stomach pouch and retained surgical objects, such as scalpels, needles, retractors, clamps, loose staples, surgical sponges, draping, and surgical towels.

There are certain risks that are more common among patients receiving bariatric surgery because high levels of abdominal fats can make it more difficult for the surgeon to see vital organs and blood vessels. If accidental damage should occur, the patient could suffer from internal bleeding, suffer irreparable harm to vital organs, or even die unless the surgical team promptly diagnoses and addresses the issue.

Additionally, preexisting conditions such as heart disease and diabetes can make healing from surgery more difficult, which could result in even more complications down the road.

Bariatric patients who have comorbidities must be treated in an exacting manner and monitored carefully for any signs of complications after the procedure has been performed. Patients’ surgeon and the entire care team must make sure that they perform to the utmost of their abilities at all times.

St. Petersburg Weight Loss Surgeon Sued Over Patient’s Untimely Death

Dr. Ernest C. Rehnke conducted gastric stapling weight loss surgery on 39-year-old Pamela Jane Quiles in January 2014. She died just six months later.

Kayla Jane Pellrine, Quiles’ daughter, filed a lawsuit against Rehnke, saying that he should never have performed the surgery on her mother. Pellrine argued that her mother was a high-risk patient because her previous surgeries, including abdominal surgery, hernia repairs, a hysterectomy, and gallbladder and appendix removals, had "compromised" Quiles’ surrounding tissue and vascularity, rendering the gastric stapling performed by Rehnke unwarranted or "contraindicated".

63-year-old Rehnke is a St. Petersburg board-certified surgeon who performs bariatric weight-loss surgeries, among other things. He has a well-documented history of malpractice lawsuits and claims. According to news reports, Rehnke had 11 payouts for medical malpractice since 2000. However, the Board of Medicine in Florida – the agency in charge of ensuring that dangerous doctors do not practice – has not restricted his license.

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There are many accusations against the infamous surgeon. In 2014, Rehnke and members of the Palms of Pasadena Hospital nursing staff were accused of causing the death of a 42-year-old doctor from Chicago after they allegedly botched his appendectomy and subsequent follow-up.

In 2015, there was a claim by a former real estate agent that she had to get a colostomy after Rehnke performed Lap-Band surgery on her and it caused infections. She alleged that the situation resulted in over $300,000 in post-medical expenses. In her claim, Palms of Pasadena was also accused of negligence for retaining a surgeon who had a massive number of malpractice settlements.

Proving Malpractice After a Bariatric Surgery

Like any other form of medical negligence, bariatric surgery malpractice needs to be proven in a court of law before the surgeon can be held liable for whatever action, or inaction, resulted in the situation in the first place.

The plaintiff must be able to show evidence that the surgeon owed a duty of care to the patient, that they breached that duty of care, and the patient was injured or died as a result of that breach of duty. Once these conditions are met to the judge or jury’s satisfaction, a malpractice trial will, in most cases, will be decided in the plaintiff or their surviving family’s favor.

However, not many malpractice lawsuits actually make it to trial. In the majority of cases, a defendant named in the lawsuit will negotiate with the plaintiff for an out-of-court settlement – this is true especially in cases where the plaintiff has a very strong case against the defendant. Typically, these settlements can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If the injuries suffered by the plaintiff are particularly egregious, it can go up to millions of dollars.

Medical malpractice cases can be complex and very hard to prove. This is why it is critical to hire a profound medical malpractice attorney and there is no one better than this than RMFW Law. This law firm know this arena better than anyone and the results we have obtained for clients is breathtaking.

Many times, the surgeon or other medical professional and their insurance company will try to find fault in the plaintiff’s evidence to avoid making a payout, or to pay as little as possible as compensation.

Bariatric surgeries can result in serious complications, some of them even life-threatening. Due to this, you should never accept a settlement that does not match the severity of the injuries you have suffered. You should always consult your attorney when the defendant’s party offers a settlement. Both parties should have a proper negotiation so that you obtain the compensation you deserve for going through a terrible ordeal.

RMFW Law Knows Bariatric Surgery Malpractice and Our Results Verity This

If you or a loved one has been injured or suffered severe complications due to a surgeon’s negligence while performing a weight loss procedure, you should immediately seek the help of a qualified and tremendous medical malpractice lawyer. You can get a free evaluation of your case, which allows the attorney to determine if you have a viable case. If you do, your legal counselor will begin the steps to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the negligent party.

No one is better at this than us RMFW Law. Our glorious track record is fantastic. We have won millions of dollars for past clients and you too can be on this amazing list.

Make sure that you get the best malpractice attorney to file a lawsuit against your surgeon or other medical professionals whose action, or inaction, led to the injuries or complications you suffered.

A strong lawyer will make sure that your rights are protected and that you receive fair compensation that you are legally entitled to. With your attorney by your side, you can make sure that the defendant pays for their negligence and possibly keep them from causing harm or injury to someone else. RMFW Law is in this business for all the right reasons. Someone needs to protect the individual from the systems that sometimes show no empathy.

Hire the services of a reliable and pragmatic personal injury attorney personal injury lawyer at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff, of RMFW Law at 212 697 9280, who will represent you and help you recover the best compensation. Call us today! You have nothing to lose and much to gain!