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Radiologist May Face Lawsuit, Loss Of License

September 27, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Chest Radiology, Medical Ethics, Nuclear Medicine
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A lawyer for the widow of a patient who died after a radiologist perforated the patient’s spleen says the widow plans to sue the doctor by Thanksgiving.

This comes after the Connecticut Medical Examining Board rejected a proposed settlement between the radiologist and the State Department of Public Health (DPH), saying a year’s supervised probation and possible loss of his medical license was too lenient.

It’s the latest twist in a tragic story that began on April 26, 2010, at New Milford Hospital in New Milford, Connecticut. Staff writer Susan Tuz of The Greater New Milford Spectrum has been chronicling the case.

On that date, Michael Waldman, MD, a radiologist who specializes in nuclear medicine, performed a thoracentesis on 74-year-old Thomas D’Amato of New Milford. As Dr. Waldman inserted the needle to remove fluid from the chest cavity, according to records of a DPH investigation reported by Tuz, he nicked the spleen.

Dr. Waldman immediately realized he had perforated the spleen but never told the patient, the investigation found. Instead, he left to perform another procedure, the investigation determined. After a follow-up chest X-ray and an hour of having vital signs monitored by the radiological staff, D’Amato was sent home without being seen again by Dr. Waldman, the investigation found.

Six hours later, D’Amato returned to the emergency room, complaining of shortness of breath and severe abdominal pain, according to the investigation. A CT scan found abdominal bleeding. D’Amato died on April 29.

DPH attorneys reached a settlement with Dr. Waldman. It called for him to be on supervised probation for a year and to be monitored by a consulting radiologist. Dr. Waldman did not admit to allegations of negligence but agreed not to contest the DPH findings, according to DPH documents. He also faced possible license revocation.

That wasn’t enough for the Medical Examining Board. At its August meeting, according to the Hartford Courant, it rejected the proposed settlement. The Courant quoted board member C. Steven Wolf, MD, as saying:

This case troubles me more than most. He knows immediately he punctured the spleen, yet he doesn’t tell the patient or the family. There is a wanton disregard for patient safety here.

In fact, according to Tuz’s reporting, D’Amato’s widow learned of the proceedings against Dr. Waldman from a newspaper account. She said, according to Tuz:

Our doctor had told me an internal investigation would be conducted. I assumed I would be advised of the findings. I wasn’t. When I saw the article in the paper, it knocked me out. … Friends told me at the time that I should sue. But I’m not that kind of person, and neither was my husband.

She apparently has changed her mind and now plans to sue Dr. Waldman for malpractice. During the DPH investigation, Dr. Waldman’s attorney, Jack D. Garamella, told the DPH that the doctor believed he had conducted the procedure and discharge correctly.

“The patient was completely asymptomatic when discharged,” Garamella wrote. “Dr. Waldman believed and continues to believe that there was no specific protocol with respect to the amount of time that an asymptomatic patient should be monitored.”

Related seminar: Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Imaging


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One Response to “Radiologist May Face Lawsuit, Loss Of License”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Widow Deems Penalty Weak, Sues Radiologist on May 28th, 2012 at 10:02 am

    […] we reported back in September, a state Department of Public Health investigation found that after Dr. Waldman realized he had […]