Physicians and other health care professionals owe a duty of care to the patients that they treat. Those who do not abide by the standard of care may be liable for injuries or deaths that occur as a result of their medical negligence. One New York doctor recently pled guilty after one of his patients died shortly after a surgery he performed.
The 51-year-old woman, who was a former model, died a few hours after an elective liposuction procedure to remove fat from her thighs. She had a heart transplant in 2004 and the arteries around her heart were severely clogged at the time of the operation. Court records show that the doctor admitted to not consulting with the woman's cardiologist and allowed her to undergo the liposuction surgery despite her heart transplant. He was also on probation for professional misconduct at the time of the procedure.
The doctor originally faced manslaughter and other charges, but decided to plead guilty to criminally negligent homicide and falsifying records. He is facing two months in jail and five years of probation. A medical examiner spoke with Brooklyn prosecutors and changed the manner of death from undetermined to homicide by physician negligence. The judge presiding over the family's civil suit however did not agree with this change. There was also a great deal of disagreement amongst experts as to why the woman died. The surgeon's attorney believes that all of these factors may have played a role in the reduced charge.
Medical malpractice suits typically result in civil cases, where the patient or the patient's family files suit against the surgeon and others responsible for any negligence that occurred during surgery. Victims of medical malpractice are encouraged to file a civil suit to recover damages for their injuries. In addition to these civil charges, some surgeons will face criminal charges to represent a debt to society. If a surgeon grossly breaches the standard of care owed to a patient and it leads to their death, he can face criminal charges of manslaughter. If he is found guilty, his conviction may be used as evidence in the civil suit.
It is a difficult situation when a doctor or medical staff causes injury or death to a patient. The patient and their loved ones should understand what options they have available to them to ensure they are remedied for their loses and damages. Filing for compensation could help alleviate any additional medical costs incurred and could help family members cope with the loss of a loved one.
Source: NY Daily News, "Brooklyn plastic surgeon pleads guilty to criminally negligent homicide after former model dies following botched liposuction," Oren Yaniv May 7, 2014