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Widow Deems Penalty Weak, Sues Radiologist

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The widow of a man who died after a radiologist accidentally punctured his spleen has sued the doctor, saying that state Medical Examining Board sanctions were inadequate.

Thomas D’Amato, 74, of New Milford, Connecticut, died in April 2010, three days after Michael Waldman, MD, nicked his spleen with a needle during a thoracentesis.

On April 17, 2012, the Connecticut Medical Examining Board found that Dr. Waldman recognized that he had perforated the spleen but sent D’Amato home without telling the patient and didn’t properly monitor D’Amato. The board reprimanded Dr. Waldman and ordered that his work be checked by a licensed radiologist for one year at his own expense.

The patient’s widow, Diane D’Amato, filed suit last week against Dr. Waldman, New Milford Hospital (where the incident took place), and Radiological Associates of New Milford (where Dr. Waldman practiced). Dr. Waldman has resigned from both the hospital and Radiological Associates and is reportedly unemployed.

Diane D’Amato late last week told Susan Tuz, a reporter for the New Milford Spectrum and The News-Times of Danbury, Connecticut, who has been covering the case:

I filed this suit basically because I felt like the reprimand from the Medical Examining Board was not sufficient. I thought the board should have taken a stronger action, and this is the only avenue of action left to me.

Some members of the examining board also thought the reprimand was insufficient, according to an earlier story by Tuz. C. Steven Wolf, MD, said, “Personally, I believe there should be a suspension and fine. There was a serious moral failure here.”

Others on the examining board defended the radiologist. “Dr. Waldman realized what his failure was and how the system in place at New Milford Hospital broke down, and he took responsibility for the breakdown,” said David Goldenberg, MD. “There was not an adequate patient monitoring protocol in place at the hospital. What happened was a system failure.”

As we reported back in September, a state Department of Public Health investigation found that after Dr. Waldman realized he had perforated the spleen, he left to perform another procedure. 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.

Six hours later, D’Amato returned to the emergency room. A CT scan found abdominal bleeding. However, some members of the examining board said it was not clear that bleeding from the spleen led to D’Amato’s death.

Diane D’Amato said she didn’t sue immediately because she and her husband were not litigious people. “The lawsuit came to my mind when I found out that Dr. Waldman knew what he’d done and didn’t say anything,” she said. “I didn’t realize that at first. Then I waited to see what happened with the Medical Examining Board before taking action myself.”

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The FCC allocates electromagnetic spectrum for wireless patient-monitoring body sensors. For details, see our Facebook page. And, on this Memorial Day, thanks to all in the armed forces, past and present.

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