A man’s botched heart surgery at Community Regional Medical Center located in Fresno County has led a jury to award his family $55.6 million in general damages.
Some of the most shocking allegations include the victim, Silvino Perez, having been left on the operating table with an open chest cavity so that the surgeon, Dr. Pervaiz Chaudhry, could attend a luncheon. The physicians unqualified assistant was left to complete the surgery, but complications led to significant brain damage and Perez fell into a vegetative state where he has remained ever since.
It was only due to staff member James Robillard that the details of this case came to light. Robillard is now [rightfully] pursuing a separate legal case against the hospital over this matter, as he was fired for the whistleblowing. The hospital says their actions were justified, as he was fired for violating patient privacy laws.
Several months after the incident, the California Department of Public Health fined the hospital $175,000 for an incident matching the details of this one (though they left the patient name out of it). Their investigation was incited by a call from James Robillard shortly after the surgery.
Representatives of the hospital vehemently deny that the surgeon left the patient with an open cavity. However, during the investigation by the California Department of Public Health, an interview was conducted with the doctor in question (again, publicly unnamed in their report). During this interview they stated that they allowed the assistant to finish up in order to give them more practice, even though it was above their level of hospital privileges.
No amount of money is going to bring Silvino Perez back to his family, but the efforts are surely not in vain. The family’s attorney Jeff Mitchell said “hopefully this verdict sends a message to the medical community.”
The trial was just one of many that came about due to this case, including a previously reached settlement that the family agreed to directly with the hospital.