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.