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Patient wins $16 million malpractice lawsuit against med school

A woman who underwent brain surgery to remove a benign tumor won $16 million in December after suing the University of Miami doctor who performed the operation.

The neurosurgeon prescribed anti-seizure medication to Lourdes Landis, 48, after having a benign tumor removed from her brain, said her lawyer Jay Halpern. However, she had a seizure after being released from the hospital, which left Landis brain damaged.

“The doctor is supposed to give anti-seizure medicine,” Halpern told The Miami Hurricane in a phone interview. “If he doesn’t and she gets a seizure, then it’s malpractice. We alleged that surgery should not have been undertaken because the risks far outweighed the benefits.”

Landis’ only complaint when she first came to Jackson Memorial, a facility with up to 1,100 UM doctors on staff, was headaches. She visited UM’s medical facilities for an MRI scan where her tumor was discovered, Halpern said.

The neurosurgeon, Dr. Jacques Morcos, also discovered that Landis had a bleeding condition called Von Willebrand, Halpern said. Von Willebrand is a hereditary disease that causes blood to take longer to clot, similar to hemophilia, according to the Florida Hemophilia Association.

“The neurosurgeon sought a consultation with a hematologist to do surgery on her with that condition,” Halpern said. “The doctor did not follow the hematologist’s recommendations.”

Halpern believes that the MRI scans showed there was blood in Landis’ brain and that Morcos did not properly manage the blood during the removal of the tumor.

After the surgery, Halpern said the doctors they did not confirm the anti-seizure medication level before discharging her from the hospital. Thus suggesting that Landis went home with the wrong medication.

Two days after she was discharged, Landis suffered the seizure. The brain damage left her incapable to return to her job, Halpern said.

After The Miami Herald published an article on the lawsuit, Halpern wrote a letter to the editor. Published Dec. 29, 2006, Halpern said that the doctor “prematurely discharged her while she was going downhill clinically.”

In the Herald’s article “Patient wins $16M in suit”, Morcos said:

“I was the third opinion on this and we were all saying the same thing. This tumor was blocking the fluid spaces of her brain, causing a threat to her life-not immediately, but eventually.

There was some bleeding, but it was properly managed with medication. She was discharged in the expected post-operative state. The tragedy in this case is that [Miami-Dade] Fire Rescue was unable to secure her airway.”

Both parties concluded the Fire Rescue worker who came to Landis’ aid after her mother called 911 were not in any way liable for administering the wrong type of oxygen.

Steven Stark, the director of UM’s Office of Patient Protection and Risk Prevention, declined to comment, saying it would be inappropriate to do so while post-trial motions are pending.

The university may appeal the decision during the post-trial motions, which are set for Feb. 20.

Walyce Almeida may be contacted at w.almeida@umiami.edu.

February 2, 2007

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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