Heart Surgery Malpractice Lawsuit in Baltimore City

Bentt v. Johns Hopkins Hospital

Surgery Malpractice This is a surgical malpractice lawsuit filed by a doctor at Johns Hopkins after undergoes surgery at Hopkins that fails to treat her heart conditions. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on April 6, 2017, and it is the 164th medical malpractice claim filed in Maryland in 2017.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff is an anesthesiologist in Washington, D.C.  She begins to experience shortness of breath, fatigue, and a low exercise tolerance, so she is referred to Johns Hopkins to be treated for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (an abnormally thick heart muscle) and investigation of Fabry disease (a disorder resulting from the build-up of a type of fat).

A few months later, she is seen by defendant cardiac surgeon. He tells the woman she needs a left ventricular septal myectomy (open-heart surgery to remove a portion of the septum that is obstructing blood flow) to treat the problems she was having. Defendant tells the plaintiff that she should expect normal exercise tolerance after the myectomy.

Four months later, the myectomy and a bone marrow biopsy are done at Johns Hopkins. During the procedure, defendant surgeon records sinus rhythm, good ventricular function, and no residual left tract obstruction.

However, an echocardiogram is done a month later before the plaintiff is discharged from Hopkins. This shows significant residual mid cavitary obstruction, contradicting the doctor's conclusion in the operating room that there was no residual tract obstruction. Additionally, the plaintiff's exercise is not back to normal.

Less than a year after the surgery, the plaintiff has significant recurrent symptoms - shortness of breath and fatigue. She is diagnosed with residual septal hypertrophy, and she needs a left ventricular septal myectomy and a mitral valve repair. When another surgeon performs her second surgery, he finds no evidence of a septal basal myectomy being performed on her before. He also finds severe ventricular obstruction.

The plaintiff files this claim against the first surgeon and Johns Hopkins, alleging that either the myectomy selected and performed was not the appropriate procedure, or that it failed to properly correct her heart obstructions that she experienced. As a result, she suffers permanent consequences including the need for a pacemaker, mitral valve and heart problems, a decreased exercise tolerance, and a shortened life expectancy.

Additional Comments
  • Why has this case not settled?  The guess here is that Hopkins made no settlement offer because they are convinced they will be successful on the merits of the case.  Who knows what the real facts are.  But usually, when you read a complaint, which is a very one-sided document, you really like their chances.  After reading only plaintiff's version of the facts, you are still left with a lot of questions. 
  • Regardless of the merits, the publicity of a doctor suing her own hospital is not a good one. But unless a reporter for the Baltimore Sun or the Maryland Daily Record stumbles upon this case summary, they are probably in the clear at this point.
  • Plaintiff probably had the choice of either a septal myectomy or an alcohol septal ablation for treatment of her obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The conventional wisdom is that a septal ablation was better for patients with a limited life expectancy while a septal myectomy was better for younger people because of it was more durable over the long haul. There is also a new a school of thought that says that septal myectomy is the better and doctors should choose it more often. One reason why they do not may be because the septal myectomy is a more difficult procedure to perform.
  • It will be interesting to see what plaintiff's expert has to say about this case. Will the expert say that the septal myectomy was never performed? That is a pretty conspiratorial accusation against a hospital like Johns Hopkins. If the argument is that the procedure was not done properly, that might be a pretty thin reed in a case like this without real specifics. This is certainly not a procedure that is frequently targeted by malpractice lawyers.
  • The upside to this case is the lost wages of a doctor who will have significant future lost wages.  
Jurisdiction
  • Baltimore City
Defendants
  • Hopkins cardiac surgeon
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Johns Hopkins Health System Corporation
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • Johns Hopkins
Negligence
  • Failing to fully and timely inform the plaintiff of the available myectomy procedures and risks and complications associated with each
  • Failing to properly treat the plaintiff and to perform the myectomy on the plaintiff
  • Failing to follow the standard of care of acceptable practices regarding the treatment of a patient with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy
Specific Counts Pled
  • Negligence
  • Agency
  • Negligent Hiring, Training, Supervision and Retention of Johns Hopkins Respondents
Plaintiff's Experts and Areas of Specialty
  • None at this time
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