Doctor removes patient's kidney during routine back surgery after mistaking it for cancerous tumor

Dr Ramon Vasquez had not been privy to the two MRI scans taken before the operation that showed Maureen Pacheco having a pelvic kidney and made a 'presumptive diagnosis'


                            Doctor removes patient's kidney during routine back surgery after mistaking it for cancerous tumor

A Florida woman who had gone in for a routine surgery to put an end to her lower back pain found to her horror that her experienced surgeon had removed one of her kidneys after mistaking it for a cancerous tumor.

According to the Daily Mail, the now-53-year-old Maureen Pacheco was a victim of lower back pain as a result of a car accident she had suffered earlier. Wanting to rid herself of the pain once and for all, Pacheco paid a visit to Wellington Regional Medical Center in Wellington in April 2016 with the intention of discussing surgical options.

Vasquez mistakenly removed one of his patient's kidneys (Source: miVIP)
Vasquez mistakenly removed one of his patient's kidneys (Source: miVIP)

She was referred to Dr Ramon Vasquez Jr, who miVIP describes as "a renowned general and vascular surgeon with over twenty years of experience in providing superior outcomes."

Vasquez informed Pacheco that he would have the bones in the affected area fused together with the help of his team: he would perform the opening, and then an orthopedic surgeon would do the fusing.

The first part of the surgery went without a hitch. But when Vasquez was supposed to step aside and let his colleague take over, he thought he saw a mass in her pelvis and declared an emergency. The kidney would then be removed before the rest of the team was allowed to continue with the surgery.

It emerged later that Vasquez had not been privy to two MRI scans taken before the operation that showed the 53-year-old having a pelvic kidney, something that's the result of an unusual but ultimately harmless birth defect. Having woken up from her anesthesia, Pacheco was informed that her kidney had been removed, and understandably upset, she filed a lawsuit against the hospital.

While the lawsuit would be settled out of court for $500,000 this past September — the primary surgeons who were supposed to fuse the bones in her lower back, Dr. John Britt and Dr. Jeffrey Kugler, settled for $250,000 each, according to records from the state's Office of Insurance Regulation — but the damage had long been done.

Vasquez's lawyer has pinned the blame on the hospital (Source: Google Maps)
Vasquez's lawyer has pinned the blame on the hospital (Source: Google Maps)

With just one kidney, Pacheco is at a higher risk of both chronic kidney disease and renal failure. She also has a chance of developing high blood pressure and loss of kidney function later in life. The Palm Beach Post reported the comments of Mark Mittelmark, Vasquez's attorney, who said that his client had settled for a "nominal amount."

Florida's Department of Health has filed an administrative complaint against Vasquez, who previously had an unblemished disciplinary record and doesn't have malpractice insurance and could face a range of penalties from losing his medical license to paying a fine. 

The department's complaint states that the doctor made a "presumptive diagnosis" when he noticed what he thought was a malignant pelvic mass when he opened up Pacheco's lower back. It also stated that his cancer diagnosis was not related to the patient's medical condition and "therefore medically unnecessary." In response, Mittelmark has placed the blame firmly on Wellington Regional for failing to inform his client that the patient had a pelvic kidney.