On April 17, 2015, a California cardiac perfusionist filed a wrongful termination and retaliation lawsuit against the hospital where he had worked alleging that he was fired after he had reported to the hospital that a cardiac surgeon allegedly left the operating room while his patient was still on the operating room table, before the patient’s chest was closed during an April 2012 cardiac procedure (the 74-year-old patient’s family subsequently filed a California medical malpractice lawsuit against the surgeon and the hospital, alleging that an unqualified assistant closed the patient’s chest, which was done improperly, leading to the patient’s cardiac arrest, bleeding, and the loss of oxygen to the patient’s brain that resulted in his vegetative state).
The defendant hospital was reportedly fined $75,000 as a result of the incident reported by the perfusionist (a perfusionist operates the heart-lung machine during cardiopulmonary bypass procedures).
The perfusionist’s report regarding the heart surgeon leaving his patient before the patient’s chest was closed was discovered by the patient’s family during discovery in their medical malpractice case. Since then, at least two other former patients have reportedly filed California medical malpractice lawsuits against the same cardiac surgeon, alleging that he left the operating room during their surgeries before their procedures were completed, which they allege that the hospital knew.
The cardiac surgeon went on the offensive and filed a defamation lawsuit against the perfusionist in October 2014, denying that he had left the operating room when the 74-year-old patient’s chest was being closed and further alleging that the perfusionist was not even in the operating room when the patient’s chest was closed. The cardiac surgeon’s $25 million defamation lawsuit was subsequently dismissed by him without prejudice.
The defendant heart surgeon and the defendant hospital allege that the perfusionist was fired because he violated patient confidentiality laws and not because he had reported the surgeon’s alleged wrongdoing (the hospital reportedly sent notices to the perfusionist’s patients in September 2014, advising them that patient confidentiality had been breached with regard to their patient charts and that the person who had accessed their charts was unauthorized to do so and that disciplinary actions would be taken – the perfusionist denies that he accessed patient information inappropriately or without authority).
The perfusionist alleges in his wrongful termination/retaliation lawsuit that the cardiac surgeon put pressure on the hospital to investigate the perfusionist and threatened to not only sue the hospital if the hospital did not fire the perfusionist, but allegedly threatened to move his cardiac procedures and those of his medical practice to another hospital. The wrongful termination/retaliation lawsuit further alleges that the cardiac surgeon and his medical practice advised the defendant hospital that no surgeon in their medical group would allow the perfusionist to provide services during their surgeries at the defendant hospital.
If you or a family member suffered serious injury or death in California that may be due to medical negligence, you should promptly find a California medical malpractice lawyer who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a California medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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