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Justice is hard to find in medical malpractice case

The decision to have surgery, even if it is elective, is never one that is taken lightly. We trust that our doctors are who they say they are -- skilled, safe and insured.

Sadly, one Baltimore County family learned the hard way that this isn't always true. They are still grieving after losing their wife and mother to medical malpractice in 2005. She died after being operated on by a plastic surgeon who, they later discovered, was uninsured and without hospital privileges.

In February 2005, the victim underwent several plastic surgery procedures including a tummy tuck and liposuction. Her youngest son was about to get married, and she wanted to look her best.

The surgeon she chose was a board-certified plastic surgeon. She thought she was getting the best possible care. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

The surgery lasted more than 10 hours. The woman was kept overnight -- rare for the procedures she was having -- and was transported home in an ambulance the next day. She spent a few days sleeping on the couch, but on the third night after her surgery, she never woke up.

An autopsy revealed the woman died from cardiac arrhythmia. The surgeon denied her death was related, but later settled the medical malpractice claim the family had brought.

In pursuit of that claim, the family discovered some shocking facts about the doctor. He did not carry medical malpractice insurance and he didn't have any hospital privileges. His clinic wasn't supposed to perform surgeries that lasted longer than six hours, nor was it supposed to keep patients overnight. What's worse, the doctor had lost another patient under similar conditions just five months earlier.

The family never received the money they were owed in the malpractice case -- the doctor moved to Florida and filed for bankruptcy shortly after.

A few months ago, the Maryland Board of Physicians finally revoked the doctor's license, citing the two deaths and his inadequate clinical practices. However, this may not do much to help future patients -- the doctor is still practicing medicine in Florida and denies any wrongdoing in the Baltimore cases.

Source: ABC 2, "Baltimore County Family Waits More than 6 Years to See Doctor Disciplined," Joce Sterman, Feb. 1, 2012

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