NEW YORK, Feb. 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- On January 25, 2013, a Queens jury awarded $1.5 million dollars to plaintiff Humberto Pizarro, against Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, a gastroenterologist, and Dr. Lester Katz, a laparoscopic surgeon, holding Dr. Mendelsohn 60% responsible and Dr. Katz 40% responsible.
The patient had gone to Dr. Mendelsohn for a routine screening colonoscopy. He had no symptoms or complaints and had a normal physical examination. The colonoscopy was performed for the purpose of detecting cancer or pre-cancerous polyps. This procedure is recommended for all adults over 50. During the colonoscopy, Dr. Mendelsohn claims that he saw some bleeding blood vessels, and he utilized a "heater probe" to cauterize them. The heater probe is a device that is inserted through the colonoscope that applies heat directly to the tissue for the purpose of stopping bleeding. When the procedure was over, the patient felt burning pain in his abdomen, but was sent home with advice that the pain would subside on its own. The following morning, Mr. Pizarro returned to Dr. Mendelsohn's office complaining of severe pain, at which time Dr. Mendelsohn diagnosed a probable perforation of the cecum (a part of the colon near the appendix). Dr. Mendelsohn referred the patient to Dr. Lester Katz, a surgeon specializing in laparoscopic surgery. Dr. Katz performed a laparoscopic procedure in which he identified and repaired three holes in the colon that had been caused by the heater probe cauterization by Dr. Mendelsohn. After several days in the hospital, Mr. Pizarro was discharged home. However, he returned to the hospital a day and a half later with complaints of severe abdominal pain. He underwent additional surgery where it was found that he had a perforation of his small intestine in a different area from the previous heater probe injuries.
The jury found that Dr. Mendelsohn departed from accepted standards of care in performing cauterization with the heater probe that was unnecessary and excessively risky. The jury also found that Dr. Katz departed from accepted standards of care in failing to properly inspect the small intestine during his laparoscopic surgery. Mr. Reiter commented as follows: " The risk of a perforation occurring during a screening colonoscopy is generally reported to be about 1 in 1200, whereas the risk of causing a perforation of the bowel with a heater probe is reported to be as high as 1 in 40. Plaintiff's gastroenterology expert testified that using the heater probe in this case was excessively risky, and should not have been performed. The jury obviously credited this testimony, especially in view of the absence of any history of gastrointestinal bleeding. The jury also felt that the surgeon, Dr. Katz, missed an additional hole when he operated on Mr. Pizarro, and caused him additional problems and the need for subsequent surgeries."
The trial was presided over by Justice James J. Golia of Queens County Supreme Court. The trial took almost eight weeks, but the jury attended diligently from start to finish.
About Jonathan C. Reiter
SOURCE Law Firm of Jonathan C. Reiter