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Medication used in surgery center alleged to have killed Stratford man

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STRATFORD--The estate of a Stratford man, who died during surgery at an out-patient surgical center in Trumbull, has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The family is accusing the center and the medical team that operated on their loved one with attempting an unauthorized procedure and negligently dosing him with 4 percent Lidocaine, a toxic agent. The suit says the drug was mistaken for another drug.

Michael A. Palmer Sr., a 53-year-old father of eight, was undergoing a cervical spine fusion operation in May 2013 at the surgical center when he died. Although Palmer, who was a bus driver for the Connecticut Transit Authority, had asked that the surgery be done at a hospital, members of his medical team persuaded him to have the procedure performed in the outpatient center, in which they were part-owners.

“This case, like the widely publicized death of Joan Rivers, highlights some of the problems posed by the proliferation of privately-owned chains of profit-making surgical centers throughout the nation,” said Palmer’s attorney, Michael Koskoff.

“This is one of three deaths that we are investigating in surgical centers in Connecticut in just the past two years,” said Koskoff. “Something is clearly wrong with the way these centers are being operated.”

During Palmer’s surgery, a medical assistant pressed against a blood pressure cuff, causing a drop in the blood pressure reading.  At that point, the lawsuit says, the anesthesiologist negligently administered the 4 percent Lidocaine, which had been stored in the wrong place.

“Hospitals have precautions in place to prevent this type of error,” Koskoff said. “This surgical center obviously did not.”

After administering the toxic agent to Palmer, he was administered CPR and rushed to St. Vincent’s Hospital where he died.

This lawsuit is against Surgical Care Affiliates, LLC, operator of about 185 surgical centers nationwide and the Surgery Center of Fairfield County. Dr. Sandra Joyce Congdon, an anesthesiologist, Dr. Gerard J. Girasole, an orthopedist, and Dr. Abraham Mintz, a neurosurgeon are also named in the suit. Also, groups affiliated with the doctors are being sued: Dr. Girasole and Dr. Mintz were part-owners of the surgical center where Palmer had the fatal procedure, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants violated state regulations by permitting the surgery to go ahead even though it was complex surgery that had not been approved or authorized by the center’s governing body.

“A conflict of interest may come into play when a doctor has a choice of performing a procedure in his own surgical center, or a hospital,” said Koskoff. “Unless the out-patient center is prepared for the surgery, the hospital is a safer choice.”

Palmer, a long-time Bridgeport area resident, was active in the Air National Guard, Mount Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport, and was a freemason of the highest rank.  In addition to his eight children Palmer left behind seven grandchildren.

“Surgical centers may be cost-efficient, convenient and safe, but, if tragedies like this are to be avoided in the future, they need to be subject to some of the same controls that apply to our hospitals with increased scrutiny by their administrators and our Department of Public Health,” Koskoff said.  “Poorly regulated and supervised surgical centers can be dangerous places.”

Here is a copy of the full lawsuit:

Milchael Palmer - Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

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