Maureen Pacheco had suffered from back pain for years in a car accident and in 2016 went to the Wellington Regional Medical Center to merge the bones in her lower back. This is a procedure that is officially known as the L5-S1 instrument for anterior lumbar vertebral body fusion.
Shortly before he was rolled into surgery on April 29, 2016, Pacheco met Dr. Ramon Vazquez, who was tasked with the operation, told the authorities.
Vazquez was to cut open Pacheco, then 51, so that her orthopedic surgeons could perform the spinal surgery.
During the surgery, Vazquez "noticed a pelvic mass and presented a presumptive diagnosis of malignant gynecology, lymphoma and / or other metastatic disease," a Florida Department of Health administrative complaint against the doctor said.
The authorities said Vazquez had cut it off and removed it from Pacheco's body.
But the pelvic mass he thought he noticed was actually an intact pelvic kidney, a pathologist confirmed a month later.
"Few medical errors are as vivid and frightening as those affecting patients who have operated on the wrong part of the body," said the Agency for Health Research and Quality.
Such incidents are referred to as "never events," which means that they are "mistakes that should never occur, and that point to serious underlying security issues," the AHRQ wrote.
The AHRQ found that such errors occur in about one in 112,000 surgical procedures, or "rarely enough that a single hospital would experience such an error only every five to ten years."
Pacheco filed a complaint, which was settled in September.
Pelvic kidneys are renal organs that have not progressed into the normal abdominal area during fetal development. Two MRIs prior to Pacheco's surgery showed she had a kidney in the pelvic area.
The lawsuit alleged that Vazquez did not review the MRI. He also claimed he had not received Pacheco's approval to remove what he considered a mass.
"As you can imagine, if someone undergoes back surgery, they would never expect to wake up and find out when they just wake up from anesthesia that one of their kidneys has been unnecessarily removed," Pacheco's attorney Donald J. Ward said the Palm Beach Post.
Vazquez's lawyer told the newspaper Wellington Regional had not told him that the patient had a pelvic kidney, the Post wrote.
In a statement to InsideEdition.com, Vazquez's lawyer said, "Dr. Vazquez settled this case at a nominal amount because of the uncertainty of the litigation, and he has not accepted any liability by agreeing to this settlement."
A spokesman for the Wellington Regional Medical Center said to InsideEdition.com in a statement, "Dr. Vazquez is and has never been an employee of the Wellington Regional Medical Center." Dr. Vazquez was an independent physician with privileges for Wellington medical personnel regionally as others Hospitals in Palm Beach County.
Vazquez is no longer part of Wellington Regional's medical staff. Wellington Regional has taken all necessary and appropriate steps to review the circumstances of this unfortunate incident. The Wellington Regional Medical Center's over 30-year history is an incident of this kind that has never occurred before or since. "
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