A surgeon in Florida believed a woman’s healthy kidney was a cancerous tumor and removed it during a routine back surgery.
According to the Palm Beach Post, 51-year-old Maureen Pacheco checked into Wellington Regional Medical Center, in Wellington, Fla., in April 2016 to get the bones in her lower back fused after a car accident.
Ramon Vazquez, MD, who is the chairman of surgery at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, was not performing the back surgery but was brought in as a general surgeon to cut open the patient so that the other surgeons could operate. That was when Vazquez spotted Pacheco’s healthy organ and thought it was a tumor. Vazquez declared an emergency and removed the kidney. Such surgical mistakes are referred to as “wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors” and are dubbed “never events” — meaning such incidents should never happen.
Kidneys remove waste and extra water from the blood to form urine. Generally, people with one kidney have few or no kidney-related health problems, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Regardless, no one wants to be told when they wake up from anesthesia that their kidney was removed unnecessarily. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, these types of errors occur in about 1 out of 112,000 surgical procedures.
Before the incident, Vazquez had a clean disciplinary record, according to the news outlet.
“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 told the Palm Beach Post in an email.
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