At age 27, a man had surgery for a ruptured disc. After surgery, the pain increased, becoming unbearable. The pain and numbness in his back spread to his left side and down to his foot, causing atrophy. Now, ten year later, he is unable to work, a victim of chronic pain in his back and hips that he said feels like someone has taken a searing-hot poker to his body. He no longer has feeling in his left foot, has difficulty walking and often falls. He expects to be on narcotic painkillers the rest of his life just to tolerate the pain. The man is on disability, a loss of about 40 percent of his former income, and he and his wife are struggling to keep their home.
A woman experienced pain for years due to an accident when she was a high school gymnast and a few minor auto accidents. The pain worsened over the years. After a spinal fusion, the pain persisted. An epidural was recommended to relieve the pain, but by 2006 it was so severe that she was having uncontrollable tremors. An MRI revealed the woman had a ruptured disc and her vertebrae had not fused after surgery. She was fortunate to have the problem repaired, but still experiences pain that will never go away. She can barely turn her head and has difficulty driving.
A woman didn’t know why her right leg suddenly began to hurt. It became so severe that she couldn’t stand up without pain shooting down her leg. Then it reversed and she couldn’t sit down without feeling the pain. She was diagnosed with a herniated disc and scheduled for immediate surgery. After surgery, the pain in her leg worsened added by intense back pain. An MRI revealed that a bone used to repair her spine had dislodged and shifted, requiring another surgery. After a 2nd surgery, the woman was immediately in “agonizing” pain. A post-operative MRI showed her spinal cord was nicked and leaking fluid. Doctors say she will eventually be permanently disabled and probably lose the use of her legs. She is unable to work without narcotic painkillers.
When an athlete experienced loss in arm strength while playing basketball, he was told he needed spinal surgery to repair a disc in his neck. Within a month of surgery, the man could walk and drive again, but during a follow-up doctor appointment he was told that the screws and plate used to fuse his neck vertebrae from the front were coming apart and would need to be taken out and put in the back of his neck. Three operations later, he can no longer walk and is paralyzed on the right side of his body. The paralysis is due to a cutting of the spinal cord, a condition that is untreatable. He takes 42 pills a day, his memory is fading, and he depends on his wife for even basic tasks.
What do all of these cases have in common? Neurosurgeon Stefan Konasiewicz! Dr. Konasiewicz (Dr. K) has a long malpractice register with nine medical malpractice cases filed against him during his time at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. Three cases are still pending. Five were settled out of court:
•2001: Patient treated for carpal tunnel syndrome lost the use of her right arm for several years and says her right hand is still numb. Dr. K and St. Luke’s settled for about $85,000.
•2003: Patient suffered fractured vertebrae after being injected with the wrong dye. The case settled for about $300,000.
•2004 Patient got an infection from a surgical procedure to alleviate pain from a herniated disc. She died within a week of the operation. Her widower won a settlement of about $355,000.
•2005: Patient’s aorta was cut when she underwent spinal surgeries. Dr. K missed the hole in her aorta and she bled to death 12 hours later. Her family settled for $1.45 million.
•2007: Patient is paralyzed from the neck down after being improperly secured during neck surgery. Her family settled for more than $1 million.
St. Mary’s allowed Dr. K to continue as a neurosurgeon despite these lawsuits and concerns by doctors and staff about his competence. It wasn’t until September 2010 that he was reprimanded by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, but by this time he had left the state. Texas had implemented damages caps, so what better state for a negligent doctor to work. And, ready with a welcoming hug was Governor Rick Perry .
While the latest lawsuit is underway in Minnesota for a botched brain biopsy which left a patient severely brain damaged, aTexas man who had back surgery three months ago and is still unable to get around without a walker maybe considering a lawsuit of his own. Recently learning the truth about Dr. K, the victim feels deceived because he searched the Texas Medical Board website for complaints against Dr. K and nothing turned up. Why? Because the doctors in the state are able to make agreements to keep some malpractice cases off of public record. Don’t patients deserve to know about these allegations? If it doesn’t matter in Texas, does this mean no matter what happens, no matter how many innocent people are seriously injured or die at the hands of Dr. K, he will be able to continue operating on patients in Texas? This is how tort reform is protecting Texans.
Lawsuit Financial, a pro-justice, pro-consumer company, provides medical malpractice lawsuit funding. It is one of a very select group of legal finance companies that has the expertise to underwrite and fund medical malpractice cases. Cap or no cap, we fund cases against their prospective case value; thus, arguing for abolishing caps does not have any significant, direct, benefit to our company. If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to the negligence of Dr. Konasiewicz or any other healthcare provider, Lawsuit Financial would be happy to review your case to determine if you are eligible for litigation funding.