Florida surgeon removes kidney thinking it was tumour

Blanche Robertson
November 9, 2018

- A Florida surgeon mistook a woman's healthy kidney for a cancerous tumor - and inexplicably removed it during a routine back surgery, according to a report.

But after slicing into Pacheco's abdomen, he made a "presumptive diagnosis" on seeing what he believed to be a malignant pelvic mass inside her.

Maureen Pacheco settled a lawsuit over the error by Dr Ramon Vazquez, who was tasked with cutting her open at the beginning of an operation to fuse together parts of the 51-year-old's spine at a Florida hospital.

"On or about May 2, 2016, a pathologist at WRMC confirmed the pelvic mass removed by [surgeon] was an intact pelvic kidney", reads the department of health complaint, adding the removal was "a medically unnecessary procedure".

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Errors such as wrongfully removing an organ are categorised as "wrong site, wrong procedure, wrong patient errors", categorised by USA health authorities and the NHS as "never events". Such mistakes are deemed "never events" - meaning they should never occur.

Revealing Pachecho's horror on realizing what had happened, her attorney Donald Ward said: '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 kidney's has been unnecessarily removed'. He had an unblemished record before the incident.

Florida's Department of Health has now filed an administrative complaint against Vazquez, who has served 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.

It is understood he does not have medical malpractice insurance, so any payments will be made from his own pocket.

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