The Knucklehead of the Day award
Today's winner is Dr. Paul Lieberman. He gets the award for his botched surgery on Diane Hedrick. It resulted in Ms. Hedrick losing a leg.
Read the entire Palm Beach Post article. The State Board of Medicine fined Liebermn $8,517 and ordered he do community service. Big whippedy do, pull the guy's license for a year I say. Ms. Hedrick's life has been irreversibly changed and Lieberman is still practicing medicine. He may have gotten off lightly with the authorities, but Dr. Paul Lieberman of West Palm Beach is today's Knucklehead of the day.
Note- Please come back tomorrow. TFM is having a 24-hour Knucklehead marathon to celebrate July 4th. 24 Red, White and Blue Knuckleheads. What can be more American than that?
Open Post- Bright & Early, Cao's Blog, Mudville Gazette,
Six years after Dr. Paul Liebman botched an outpatient varicose vein surgery that resulted in a Wellington woman having her left leg amputated above the knee, the state Board of Medicine last month fined him $8,517.
Under the settlement, the West Palm Beach surgeon also agreed to take a five-hour class in risk management and a class in varicose vein and vascular management. Liebman also must conduct a one-hour lecture on patient safety called "The Arrogance of Excellence" and perform 50 hours of community service.
"It's unbelievable," said Dianne Hedrick, the patient, who also is suing Liebman and Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where the surgery took place. "That's a very little amount of money for what he did to me."
The board rejected a proposed $13,517 fine.
But while Hedrick is stunned by the leniency of the board, she is glad it finally took action on her 2000 complaint. The board, composed of 12 doctors and three lay members appointed by the governor, initially dismissed her complaint in 2001 for lack of evidence. She appealed.
Hedrick, 59, has battled severe depression since the incident that caused her to stop working at her husband's Royal Palm Beach doll-making business, where she was the designer.
She has frequent nightmares and periodic phantom pain in the leg she lost. She has difficulty using a prosthetic leg and will use a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
State regulators did not tell Hedrick about the penalty. She learned about it from a Palm Beach Post reporter.
When asked whether he thought the penalty was fair, Liebman replied in an e-mail: "There is no penalty that can compensate for the lost limb. If only a greater penalty could restore or compensate for the leg, I would welcome it."
Hedrick's medical malpractice case is scheduled to go to trial next spring in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
Six years of delays
Medical board spokeswoman Tometta Cozart refused to say whether the duration of the case was longer than average.
"Every case is different," she said.
The board handled 8,000 complaints in 2005. Last year, the medical board handed down 182 serious disciplinary actions, such as suspending or revoking a doctor's license, according to Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington. In contrast, Ohio handed down 235 serious disciplinary actions, even though it has 15,000 fewer doctors than Florida.
After a complaint is filed against a doctor, it is reviewed by staffers to see whether it has merit, in which case they seek an expert opinion. If the doctor is found to have acted improperly, the complaint goes before a committee of the board. If it is found to be valid, the board issues an administrative complaint. The board then either hands down a penalty or more commonly reaches a settlement with the doctor.
The Liebman case was delayed in part, Cozart said, because the state had trouble finding medical experts willing to evaluate the physician's actions because of his popularity among Florida surgeons.
State records show it took 2 1/2 years to locate an expert willing to testify against Liebman. Board guidelines call for unbiased opinions, and individuals acquainted with the physician under scrutiny are thought to lack objectivity.
Soon after the May 2000 operation, Liebman offered Hedrick $250,000 — the limit of his insurance coverage. But she turned it down, saying it wasn't nearly enough.
Good Samaritan last year offered $449,000 to settle, but Hedrick rejected that, too. Hospital officials did not return calls for comment.
In July 2003, the state filed an administrative complaint charging that Liebman failed to tell the difference between a vein and an artery and accidentally removed a portion of Hedrick's femoral artery, which provides the main blood supply to the leg. The complaint also said Liebman botched an attempt to reconstruct the artery by failing to give her anticoagulants.
Liebman, 60, performs about 200 surgeries a year at Good Samaritan, according to Intellimed International, a market data firm.
He said the six-year delay by the medical board actually helped him because he was able to show that "in the intervening six years, I did not have a complaint or complication."
That's not exactly true.
In October 2000 — five months after Hedrick's surgery — Liebman inadvertently put a surgical staple into a Palm Beach Gardens woman's nerve during a routine hernia operation, according to a lawsuit.
Patricia Flynn, the patient, sued him in 2003 after the Mayo Clinic confirmed the mistake through a picture of the damaged nerve.
Liebman's malpractice insurer paid $240,000 to settle the case. The figure was arrived at because in 2000 he carried only $250,000 of insurance coverage. Today, like many South Florida physicians, he has no coverage.
Liebman, the second-busiest surgeon at Good Samaritan, had four lawsuits filed against him from 1999 to 2003 for incidents that occurred from 1998 to 2000. He has had no lawsuits since, according to court records.
As evidence of his quality work, he notes that he was president of the Florida Vascular Society in 1997, a group that represents about 150 vascular surgeons. He also was chief of surgery at Good Samaritan, and several publications have listed him among the nation's best doctors.
However, Best Doctors in America pulled him from its list in 2002, citing poor votes from other surgeons.
Cross Posted to Bullwinkle Blog