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David M. Paris represented the wife and son of Paul Balzer, who died during an operative procedure performed by John Doe, M.D., to remove a bronchial carcinoid tumor from the upper lobe of his left lung on February 26, 2010. Paul Balzer underwent a bronchoscopy followed by a sleeve re-section of the upper lobe of his left lung in order to remove a carcinoid tumor. This was an elective procedure and he had a very good prognosis because this was early stage and a low grade lesion with a survival rate at five years of 90 percent.
A sleeve lobectomy is a very challenging procedure. There are different techniques to remove an upper lobe. As between pneumonectomy, VATS lobectomy, and sleeve lobectomy, the latter is the most challenging. In fact, of the 300 – 400 annual thoracic surgeries performed by the defense expert, only 3-5 have been sleeve lobectomies and only 5-10 percent of Plaintiff’s expert’s annual lobectomies are sleeve lobectomies. During the procedure, the patient developed a massive bleed in his left main pulmonary artery which obstructed the operative field to such an extent that the patient exanguinated on the table.
The Plaintiff was critical of Dr. Doe in three specific respects. Plaintiff alleged:
To compound the failure to enlist an experienced surgeon at the outset, Dr. Doe encountered several unexpected anatomical anomalies in the patient which made the procedure even more challenging and technically complex. First, when he entered the chest cavity, he found that the patient had a left hemidiaphragm which was significantly elevated and occupied more than half of his thoracic cavity. This meant that a shorter distance existed between all the vessels and organs and they were more closely approximated than normal. In other words, there was less room in the operative field to work than expected. Second, the patient’s left upper lobe had collapsed and there was substantial inflammation which led to adhesions of the upper lobe to the chest wall. All of these technical challenges, Plaintiff alleged, should have led a reasonably prudent physician with Dr. Doe’s limited experience to seek assistance.
The case was settled for a confidential amount through private mediation two weeks before trial.