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Family alleges doctor negligence, says surgeon left for lunch

North Carolina medical patients may want to know the story behind a formerly active 72-year-old left in a vegetative state after his cardiac surgeon allegedly walked off during the operation to attend a luncheon. The man's family was seeking answers about the apparent medical malpractice, in which, they claim, the surgeon left an unqualified physician's assistant to close up the patient's open chest cavity. Complications arose, and the cardiologist was called back from the luncheon, which was up to 30 minutes away. The patient's heart stopped, and serious and irreversible brain damage was the result.

According to the patient's stepson, it wasn't until a year later that he received an anonymous phone call detailing the entire alleged situation. This was the first any of the man's family heard of allegations regarding why their loved one was left in a permanent vegetative state. As confirmation, the caller told the stepson to read an article in the local newspaper that described a situation matching the caller's claims. The caller said he knew what happened because he was in the operating room that day.

The place and dates matched, and, even though no doctor or patient was named in the article, a lawyer for the family said that it was too close to be mere coincidence. The hospital would not confirm that the report was about the 72-year-old patient and his cardiologist, however, and neither would the California Department of Public Health.

Leaving a heart operation to go to a lunch meeting might be considered doctor negligence. However, many less dramatic doctor errors can result in worsened conditions and permanent disability. Families of patients hurt by medical malpractice are entitled to file a lawsuit to recover damages from those people and institutions determined to be responsible.

Source: ABC, "Man Left Brain Damaged After Doctor Allegedly Abandons Man's Open-Heart Surgery", Sydney Lupkin, January 15, 2014

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