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CLAIMS ALLEGE HOST OF DOCTOR ERRORS

 

The thousands of malpractice cases reported to the state Board

 

of Medicine since 1993 allege a host of medical errors and negligence by

 

doctors.

 

 

Many blame doctors for a death. Others fault physicians for brain

 

damage suffered by an infant at birth. Some cases allege the wrong organ

 

was removed, or the wrong limb amputated.

 

 

Two-thirds of the malpractice cases reported to the board ended

 

with settlements or jury verdicts in the plaintiff's favor. The following

 

are some examples:

 

 

- Dr. Harry G. Kennedy Jr. agreed to pay $4.35 million to settle a 1994

 

Harrison County case that left a 20-year-old woman permanently disabled

 

with brain damage.

 

 

The woman had gone to a Clarksburg hospital's emergency room in 1993

 

complaining of severe headaches. Kennedy, a radiologist, misread a scan of

 

her brain as normal, the claim alleged.

 

 

The woman returned to the ER the following week, as the headaches had

 

grown worse. Only then did doctors discover that she had a blood clot in

 

her brain. By then, her brain had begun to swell, causing permanent brain

 

damage.

 

 

Dr. Shivshankar Uchila Navada, a Clarksburg neurosurgeon, saw the woman

 

after CT scans revealed the blood clot. But Navada operated on the woman's

 

  • pine, not her brain, the 1994 lawsuit against him and Kennedy alleged.
  •  

     

    The woman was flown to Charleston, where another neurosurgeon saved her

     

    life. But brain swelling caused a temporary coma and a stroke-like

     

    condition. She lost the ability to both walk and speak.

     

     

    Navada settled out of the case for $1.65 million. The settlements by

     

    Kennedy and Navada paid for crucial rehabilitation care for the woman that

     

    partly restored her speech and ability to walk, one court filing said. But

     

    both skills remain impaired, and she is considered disabled for life.

     

     

    - Dr. Dwarka N. Vemuri paid $4 million to settle claims by three

     

    different women, including a 69-year-old nun, who accused the Wheeling

     

    cardiologist of fraud. Vemuri performed unnecessary angioplasties, surgery

     

    to open blocked blood vessels, on all three, their claims alleged.

     

    One alleged a torn artery from the process required emergency surgery to

     

    repair.

     

     

    - Dr. Stuart Henry Fox has paid $2.7 million to settle eight

     

    claims filed against him. The Huntington obstetrician was ordered

     

    to pay $177,578 by a 1999 jury in a ninth claim, while another jury

     

    cleared him in a 10th.

     

     

    At least three of these cases blamed Fox for a death, while a fourth

     

    faulted him for a botched abortion-related procedure.

     

     

    Fox's medical license was placed on probation in 1994 after the widower

     

    of one of Fox's patients complained to the state Board of Medicine. The

     

    man's wife had gone to Fox for a hysterectomy, and died two weeks later of

     

    complications from the procedure. The claim alleged the hysterectomy was

     

    unnecessary and unadvisable because of her weight, liver and

     

    blood-clotting problems.

     

     

    A 1998 report on the board's action said Fox was performing up to 60

     

    hysterectomies a year, and that his insurer settled the widower's claim

     

    for $775,000 without his consent. He filed for bankruptcy last year,

     

    records said.

     

     

    - Dr. Oscar Solidum Irisari has paid $1.9 million since 1993 to resolve

     

    four malpractice claims. A fifth case was dismissed against

     

    the Moundsville obstetrician during that time.

     

     

    One settled claim blamed Irisari for brain damage suffered by an infant

     

    born in 1993. Another alleged a delay in diagnosing breast cancer in a

     

    32-year-old woman.

     

     

    Prior records show Irisari had paid, through his insurers, $3.5 million

     

    to settle eight other malpractice claims between 1984 and

     

    1993. The Board of Medicine fined Irisari in the 1980s for failing to

     

    report one of those settlements, mandated by state law. He was required to

     

    pass a competency exam after the board disciplined him again, in 1994,

     

    records said.

     

     

    - Dr. Conrad D. Tamea Jr. had 12 claims reported between 1993

     

    and 2000. One ended in a $120,000 jury verdict, while three others settled

     

    for a total of $383,000. The remaining claims were dismissed.

     

     

    The settled claims accused the orthopedic surgeon of botching a

     

  • eries of repairs to fractured bones in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A
  •  

    1994 jury found against Tamea after he allegedly failed to diagnose bone

     

    disease in a 15-year-old boy.

     

     

    - Dr. Boonlua Lucktong paid $2.5 million to settle four claims

     

    filed against him over his work at the Beckley Veterans Affairs Medical

     

    Center.

     

     

    Two of those claims blamed Lucktong for deaths at the VA center.

     

    The Board of Medicine suspended his license in 1996, and required him to

     

    pass a competency exam. After he failed the exam, the board revoked his

     

    license the following year.

     

     

    The federal government initially balked at reporting the claims

     

    to the state Board of Medicine. State officials secured an order from a

     

    federal judge to compel the VA to follow the reporting law.

     

     

    The VA paid the claims against Lucktong on his behalf. Insurance

     

    companies paid the other claims listed above on the behalf of those

     

    doctors.

     

     

    To contact staff writer Lawrence Messina, use e-mail or call 348-4869.

     

     


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