When Maureen Pacheco went to the hospital in April 2016, she was told she would be receiving back surgery, but wound up having a kidney taken out

By Maria Pasquini
November 06, 2018 10:16 AM
Credit: Getty

When Maureen Pacheco went to the hospital in April 2016, she was told she would just be getting back surgery, but wound up also having a kidney taken out.

According to court records, Pacheco, who checked into Florida’s Wellington Regional Medical Center to have a few vertebra in her lower back fused together, was not consulted about the change of plans, the Washington Post reported.

The problem allegedly occurred when, during the back procedure, surgeon Ramon Vazquez mistook her kidney for a cancerous tumor in Pacheco’s pelvis and cut it out, the Palm Beach Post reported, citing a lawsuit that had been settled in September.

One month later, a pathologist at the hospital confirmed that the tumor was actually a pelvic kidney, the Palm Beach Post reported. Pelvic kidneys refer to organs that failed “to ascend to their normal position above the waist” during fetal development, ” according to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

According to the lawsuit, Vazquez was not consulted about the two MRIs that had been performed ahead of the procedure, in which the kidney could be clearly seen, according to the outlet.

“As you can imagine, when someone goes in for a back surgery, she would never expect to wake up and be told when she’s just waking up from anesthesia, that one of her kidneys has been unnecessarily removed,” Pacheco’s attorney, Donald J. Ward, told the Palm Beach Post.

Vazquez’s attorney told the outlet that the lawsuit “was settled on his behalf for a nominal amount,” adding that his client did not “admit liability by agreeing to this settlement.”

The Washington Post reports that Vazquez, a general surgeon with an active license, has no record of discipline on file with the state’s Board of Medicine.

In a statement, the Wellington Regional Medical Center told the Washington Post that Vazquez “is not and has never been an employee” and at the time of the procedure was working as an independent physician.

“Dr. Vazquez is no longer on the medical staff of Wellington Regional,” the statement read. “Wellington Regional took all necessary and appropriate steps to review the circumstances of this most unfortunate incident. In the over-30-year history of Wellington Regional Medical Center, an incident of this nature has never occurred before or since.”

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According to a health complaint filed by the Florida Health Department in December, the “unauthorized procedure” was “medically unnecessary” as it was “unrelated” to the lumbar fusion Pacheco was scheduled to receive that day.

The complaint also claims that Vazquez made a “presumptive diagnosis” and did not perform a “biopsy of the mass…given the potential malignancy.”

As part of the complaint, the Florida Health Department requested that the Board of Medicine revoke or suspend Vazquez’s license, put him on probation or issue a fine.