Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The reason I have a job - granted this happened in Hawaii.....but my feeling is, if he would have been thru the proper credentialing process - this guy would have never have received privileges at the hospital. I find it interesting that 2 states had suspended his license to practice medicine (due to drug use), but he managed to obtain a medical license in Hawaii and get staff membership and privileges to perform surgeries!! HOLY COW! Medical malpractice has a cap for damages in Virginia, so the award would not have been this high here.

A Big Island jury yesterday awarded damages of nearly $5.6 million in a lawsuit against a surgeon who placed a piece of a screwdriver in the back of one of his patients.
The jury found surgeon Robert Ricketson 65 percent responsible for medical problems suffered by patient Arturo Iturralde, and Hilo Medical Center 35 percent responsible for allowing Ricketson to practice medicine there despite a questionable background.
ELEMENTS OF THE VERDICT» Special damages (hospital bills): $307,00065 percent, doctor; 35 percent, hospital.» General damages (pain and suffering): $1.87 million65 percent, doctor; 35 percent, hospital.» Punitive damages: $3.4 million100 percent, doctor; hospital is shielded by law.
No damages were assessed against a third defendant, medical supply company Medtronic Sofamor Danek, which was responsible for sending titanium rods that should have been placed in Iturralde's back instead of the piece of screwdriver.
Two hours into an operation on Iturralde on Jan. 29, 2001, Ricketson and operating room personnel discovered that the titanium rods were missing. Despite a nurse vigorously warning him, Ricketson improvised a new rod by cutting the shaft of a stainless steel, medical screwdriver.
He did so even though a representative of Medtronic, contacted by telephone in Honolulu, said he could bring another set of titanium rods to Hilo Medical Center in 90 minutes.
Ricketson told the 11-woman, one-man jury that Iturralde had lost too much blood early in the operation, and Ricketson could not risk extending the operation to wait for the new rods.
A week later, the piece of screwdriver broke, requiring another operation. Yet another followed after that, and Iturralde deteriorated until dying in 2003 at age 75.
Attorney Mark Davis, representing Iturralde's sister Rosalinda, said Ricketson's action led to Iturralde's death.
All parties agreed that Iturralde had medical problems before the operation, including diabetes, broken bones, bladder problems, heart surgery and strokes.
Davis said Rosalinda and other family members were happy with the verdict, despite the fact that Ricketson probably has no money to pay damages.
Ricketson had not even bought malpractice insurance and had to serve as his own attorney.
"This case goes a long way towards exposing this particular doctor and the conduct of the hospital in allowing him to get into the operating room," Davis said. "He's not going to set foot in Hawaii again."
If Ricketson were allowed to practice medicine here, his earnings would go toward paying his share of the damages, which amounts to $4.8 million.
Hilo Medical Center will owe about $770,000, although Judge Glenn Hara could modify that amount.
Juror Ronda Nicholson said some jurors wanted to hit the hospital harder. "Some people wanted to give the hospital more because that's the only way we could punish them," she said.
The hospital said Medtronic never sent the titanium rods and Medtronic said it did. Nicholson said jurors decided the hospital was at fault because a nurse failed to check if the rods were present.
Attorney Anne Williams, assisting Davis, noted that the jurors' verdict forms found the hospital negligent for giving Ricketson credentials to practice at the hospital.
Ricketson had been suspending from practicing medicine in Oklahoma and Texas for alleged drug use before coming to Hawaii, but the hospital gave him credentials anyway.


Jenn said...

Wow... this is just... wow. My first thought on reading this was that the surgeon stashed the titanium to sell on the side, hence the "missing" equipment. I just can't get over the fact that he thought putting stainless steel in was an appropriate alternative.