Wrongful death

Prominent B.C. Surgeon Accused of Negligence and Lying in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A wrongful death lawsuit alleges that a Surrey Memorial hospital surgeon (who is also the chief of thoracic surgery for the Fraser Health Authority) was negligent during a 2017 surgery which resulted in a patient death, and that he then tried to conceal the cause of death from both health authorities and the patient’s family.

What Happened?

The patient in question died at Surrey Memorial Hospital in January 2017. He was 51 years old. In September 2016, he had been diagnosed with gastric carcinoid tumours (a form of stomach cancer). Four months later he went into surgery.

The surgeon performed a gastrectomy (a complete removal of the patient’s stomach) and reconstructed the patient’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Once the surgery began, the patient’s condition began to rapidly decline. Within minutes, the surgeon was called back to the operating theatre and within 90 minutes the patient died from “massive hemorrhaging”.

Alleged Failure to Provide Necessary Medical Interventions

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the patient’s wife and two sons claims that “[the surgeon] failed or refused to provide the necessary medical interventions that would have saved [the patient’s] life”.

It specifically stated:

Tests…revealed the most likely cause of cause of [the patient’s] condition was intra-abdominal bleeding, which was likely caused by [the surgeon’s] surgical error…yet [the surgeon] failed or refused to accept or consider the advice of other competent and skilled physicians or medical professionals who were in the operating room.

The lawsuit further claimed that the surgeon acted in “a high-handed and arrogant fashion” as the patient lay bleeding to death from internal injuries.

Alleged Misinformation of Hospital and Family

The lawsuit makes additional allegations, claiming that;

  • the surgeon “intentionally misinformed” the patient’s family about the cause of the patient’s death, telling them that he had died as a result of a heart attack rather than surgical error or intra-abdominal bleeding;
  • the surgeon misinformed the coroner “in an attempt to prevent the coroner from investigating and reporting the cause of death.”; and
  • when investigations into the circumstances surrounding the patient’s death and the surgeon’s conduct were launched by the Fraser Health Authority and by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C., the surgeon “continued to provide misinformation about the cause of [the patient’s] death throughout both investigations” and “placed undue influence upon other medical professional to conceal his negligence”.

The Family

The patient’s widow, aged 53, told CBC News:

Every day is hard…I thought we would grow old together. Be able to see our grandchildren and travel…just the two of us again. And it was just ripped right out.

She also noted that the lawsuit is not about the money for her, but rather:

…about awareness…about my boys. It’s also about [my husband]…I believe he didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve to die at 51. He put all of his trust in the doctor. And the doctor let him down.

A court date in this matter has not been set, and none of the allegations have been proven in court. We will continue to follow developments in this case and will provide updates as they become available.

Surgical Error and Medical Malpractice

We’ve previously blogged about delayed diagnosis and medical malpractice as well as misdiagnosis and medical malpractice– surgical error can also provide grounds for a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit.

Medical malpractice claims are made by patients or the families of patients who are injured or whose death is caused by those who provided them with medical care. Medical malpractice claims often involve allegations of negligence, breach of contract, and/or breach of fiduciary duty.

To establish malpractice, the person bringing the claim (i.e. the plaintiff) must:

  • satisfy the court that the conduct of the medical professional in question fell below the standard of care that the patient was entitled to receive; and
  • prove that the negligence caused or contributed to the injury sustained.

In a surgical context, this means that a surgeon, anesthesiologist, or other health professional involved in the surgery can be found liable if they are negligent and if their negligence caused a patient’s injury or death.

In law, negligence in medicine simply means that a healthcare provider either did something they should not have done, or did not do something that they ought to have done, as measured against the expected, reasonable treatment which should have been provided under the circumstances.

How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?

At Sommers Roth & Elmaleh, our firm has been successfully representing patients and families affected by surgical error and other medical errors for more than 40 years. We are one of the oldest and most established plaintiff medical malpractice firms in Canada. Our compassionate and highly skilled medical malpractice lawyers regularly help our clients navigate the often overwhelming medical-legal system.

If you believe you or a family member have been injured or have had your life significantly impacted by a surgical error, contact Sommers Roth & Elmaleh. Depending on the circumstances, you (and your family) may be entitled to significant compensation for your injuries, including damages for injuries suffered, future care costs, damages for financial losses or expenses resulting from the injury, and money for the purchase of any medical equipment or supplies needed following the injury.

At Sommers Roth & Elmaleh, we offer compassionate and knowledgeable guidance on every aspect of a medical malpractice claim, and have helped clients from all across Canada, including Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland. Call us at 1-844-777-7372 or contact us online for a free consultation.


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