Does it matter which lung?

2/1/2010 Update:

Botch-Doc can cut at HUMC again

Remember this story about Dr. Santusht Perera, the surgeon that removed the wrong lung from a patient, and then covered it up? (Meadowlands Hospital in 2000)

Well he’s back “practicing” surgery again at Hoboken University Medcial Center after the NJ Board of Medical Examiners conditionally re-instated his license back on July 22, 2009. Part of this process was to monitor Dr. Perera’s performance on the operating table, to be sure “he didn’t screw up again.” After 10 surgeries without fudged paperwork or missing limbs, he’s now back in full-force at HUMC.

My questions are:

  • Is the NJ Board of Medical Examiners also corrupt? Who lets someone (who you trust with your life) back after being found guilty of covering up his blunder?
  • Why would HUMC CEO Spiros Hatiras just unconditionally accept this decision from the NJ BME without challenging it? (He claimed he had no choice, or face a big-bad scary lawsuit from the doctor).
  • How does having a quack doctor on staff help HUMC’s reputation?

6/26/2008:

Does it matter which lung?

Apparently it does, since one surgeon, who often works out of Hoboken University Medical Center, gets suspended for being “biologically dyslexic.”

From Fox News:

hoboken-surgeon-suspended-wrong-lung-surgery-hoboken-university-medical-center-june-2008.jpg

License Suspended After He Removes Wrong Lung

A New Jersey surgeon’s medical license was suspended after state regulators found he removed the wrong lung from a patient, then tried to conceal the error.

The State Board of Medical Examiners found Dr. Santusht Perera moved a portion of the patient’s right lung when he should have been removing a tumor in the left lung, the state Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday.

Perera, according to the board, then told the patient that the right lung contained a life-threatening tumor, though there was no such growth. He also altered the patient’s records to show he intended to operate on the right lung.

The board determined that Perera’s actions constituted gross negligence.

The board said the “tragic error” could have been prevented if Dr. Perera had taken “the most basic and minimal of actions that should be taken by a surgeon in advance of surgery.”

Perera, who practices at Hoboken University Medical Center, was assessed $81,000 in fines and reimbursement costs.

His lawyer, Michael J. Keating, is on vacation and not available for comment, his office said Wednesday.

David Wald, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said no other complaints were pending against the doctor.

Under the ruling, Perera can appeal for an early restoration of his medical license after six months.

21 Responses

  1. homeworld says:

    Everything’s OK. Nothing to see here folks.

  2. HansBrix says:

    How do such highly compensated people make such easily-avoidable tragic mistakes?

    This is not like forgetting to carry the 1 in some obscure calculation. This is more like building a house and forgetting all about plumbing and wiring.

    Yet we hear about these kinds of errors all the time. It was even spoofed on Malcolm in the Middle.

  3. chloe says:

    [quote comment=”89946″]How do such highly compensated people make such easily-avoidable tragic mistakes?

    This is not like forgetting to carry the 1 in some obscure calculation. This is more like building a house and forgetting all about plumbing and wiring.

    Yet we hear about these kinds of errors all the time. It was even spoofed on Malcolm in the Middle.[/quote]

    seriously. Makes me think that if I ever go in for surgery, might not be a bad idea to draw on myself with a permanent sharpi. “Left Lung Only!!”

  4. oceanbloo says:

    My brother had a serious operation (not at HUMC). Prior to the surgery, the surgeon marked exactly which side of his body would be operated on with a big black marker. It was something that was checked and double-checked many times, by medical personnel, as well as by my brother and us. (At that time, there were also some stories about surgeons mixing things up floating around, and you can never be too careful when you’re going under.)

    So, this makes you wonder not just about this doctor, but about any other medical personnel working on this poor soul. Where were the checks and balances? Mistakes happen, even (unfortunately) life-and-death mistakes, but 1) why didn’t anyone else catch this, it’s not like the doctor worked alone and 2) the covering up of the mistake is the really infuriating part.

  5. sullyx says:

    oh, so after I post this on the HUMC page then this gets its own headline huh?

  6. ShhhDontTell says:

    [quote comment=”89993″]oh, so after I post this on the HUMC page then this gets its own headline huh?[/quote]

    I don’t see your problem. Are you looking for a by-line?

  7. PneumothoraxGuy says:

    Wow…lurked around this great site for a while. This one really shocked me.

    Dr. Perera operated on my lung (surgical pleurodsis) in 2004 after a third occurance of pneumothorax. If only I had known then.

    I guess my first mistake was going to HUMC/St. Mary’s! Never again!!!

  8. Katie_Scarlett says:

    [quote comment=”89955″]My brother had a serious operation (not at HUMC). Prior to the surgery, the surgeon marked exactly which side of his body would be operated on with a big black marker. [/quote]
    Yea, my sister had a major operation at the Hospital for Joint Disease in NYC and they marked the hell out of her. Her doctor did it with a nurse in front of us, and then came back just before surgery to confirm it was still marked (it had been like 10 minutes) and to confirm the marks were accurate.

    This seems standard.

    • HomeTeam says:

      I had surgery at the same hospital and Dr. Raskin put his signature on my arm, in front of myself, my father and a nurse witness.

      In response to Katie_Scarlett who said:

      [quote comment=”89955″]My brother had a serious operation (not at HUMC). Prior to the surgery, the surgeon marked exactly which side of his body would be operated on with a big black marker. [/quote]
      Yea, my sister had a major operation at the Hospital for Joint Disease in NYC and they marked the hell out of her. Her doctor did it with a nurse in front of us, and then came back just before surgery to confirm it was still marked (it had been like 10 minutes) and to confirm the marks were accurate.

      This seems standard.

  9. BarbaraR56 says:

    Well it seems that HUMC is not the only place who fouled up. A very dear friend of mine to a leading hospital In Virginia, they told her she was fine. Seems they did a bronchostomy down her right lung and it was normal, problem was the tumor (which turned out to be the size of a baseball) was in the left lung. She had the cancerous tumor removed and her chances of survival are slim right now. This occurred at a teaching hospital in Virginia. I had lung surgery twice and so did my husband at HUMC, our surgeon was right on the money, but we had a second opinion anyway in New York. My concern is for the unfortunate patient and his/her family. It is always best to get a second opinion. 😮

  10. oceanbloo says:

    [quote comment=”90065″]Well it seems that HUMC is not the only place who fouled up. A very dear friend of mine to a leading hospital In Virginia, they told her she was fine. Seems they did a bronchostomy down her right lung and it was normal, problem was the tumor (which turned out to be the size of a baseball) was in the left lung. She had the cancerous tumor removed and her chances of survival are slim right now. This occurred at a teaching hospital in Virginia. I had lung surgery twice and so did my husband at HUMC, our surgeon was right on the money, but we had a second opinion anyway in New York. My concern is for the unfortunate patient and his/her family. It is always best to get a second opinion. :o[/quote]

    This isn’t about a diagnosis. The tumor was in the left lung, and they operated on the right. Don’t blame this on the patient that he should have gotten a second opinion. It was clearly the surgeon’s fault.

    Why are you defending this hospital and this mistake? Just because it happened elsewhere doesn’t change the fact that the mistake was made and covered up.

  11. davidcdavid64 says:

    As an MD this happens because basic operational rules of safety that have been learned in many other industries are ignored in medicine. The fines and punishments are not severe enough to deter the problem. This took many years to reach a conclusion, he is going to practice again even though he forged legal documents, and was the hospital fined. When the penalty costs less than the cost to fix the problem the problem continues. Let us not forget that the hospital in CA that gave an overdose of Heparin to two children was only fined 23K. That is a billion dollar institution.

    Why should everyone in the operating room have to make sure the surgeon knows where to operate. As an anesthesiologist I’ve my own job to do, not have to act as a policeman for a lazy doctor.

    Surgeons bring patients ($) to hospitals. Hospitals therefore aren’t effective at policing their doctors. Don’t ask them to take away their own gravy train!!!

  12. Redstorm says:

    Ahh yes…the best doctors $52 million can buy….

  13. ohnoivotedforher says:

    Who’s left lung your left or my left LOL

  14. blaueaugen says:

    maybe they should close the hospital if they’re going to let doctors like this practice there. but this really doesn’t suprise me since it’s happening in hoboken…haha just have to laugh

  15. rag246 says:

    The error was regrettable. The attempted cover up is unforgivable. This “doctor” demonstrated a complete lack of ethics and accountability following the initial mishap.

    It is a condemning reflection on both the Hoboken Hospital (come on now, we all know the real HUMC is in Hackensack) and the NJ Board of Medical Examiners that he is allowed anywhere near the medical industry in any capacity other than as a patient.

  16. oceanbloo says:

    It’s interesting that in post #11, back in 2008, it was predicted that this guy would be back. And here he is!

  17. DEADMAU5 says:

    This story reminds me of the doctor in NYC a few years ago that amputated a patients wrong arm.

  18. Boken Pug says:

    When I had surgery on my knee, before I was wheeled into the operating room, the doctor put a huge X on the leg that was being operated on. Two simple lines saved a huge headache (knee-ache) down the road.

  19. Garden says:

    as a small point – this error happened at Meadowlands hospital not Hoboken.

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