A jury has awarded $1 million to a Las Cruces man who alleged a surgeon was negligent in repairing a colon perforation after a colonoscopy.
General surgeon Dr. David Friedman operated on Michael Salopek in February 2005, to repair a tiny perforation he had sustained during a colonoscopy, Las Cruces attorney Marci Beyer said.
However, Friedman did not find the perforation, which continued to leak into Salopek’s abdominal area for 11 days. Medical expenses just to find the perforation totaled $165,000, Beyer said.
The six-day medical malpractice trial, in 3rd Judicial District Court Judge Jerald A. Valentine’s courtroom, went to the jury, which deliberated for 12 hours Tuesday before returning with its verdict.
Friedman testified that since he couldn’t initially find the perforation, he assumed it had sealed itself, Beyer said.
“We don’t think he took responsibility because he would not admit he did anything wrong. He thought it was a legitimate assumption,” Beyer said. “We argued that that was not the standard of care and the jury agreed with us.
“There were procedures he could have used to locate the perforation and he did not use those until (Salopek) went back in 11 days later,” Beyer said. “What they do is instill a blue dye into the colon. It leaks out the holes … If they don’t find it, then you continue to leak fecal matter inside your abdomen and that causes massive infection.”
Over the past four years, Beyer said Salopek’s abdomen was “filled with infection” that caused his internal organs to start to stick to each other.
“He’s had a total of 13 operations now,” she said. “They had to remove part of his colon, it was so infected.”
The surgery took place at Memorial Medical Center, but no negligence was alleged against the hospital, Beyer said, as Friedman made the surgical decisions. Friedman still maintains a residence in Las Cruces and continues to work in Albuquerque, but no longer practices in Las Cruces, Beyer said.
New Mexico caps awards for pain and suffering at $600,000, Beyer said. Such cases are only rarely tried and usually are settled out of court, Beyer said.
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