A man had been mugged and suffered a fracture of the bone surrounding his eye. One of the muscles that controls movement of the eye got slightly stuck in the fractured bone. The result was that he couldn't move his eye past a certain point. Since he could only move his eye up to a certain point, he had some double vision. However, if he closed one eye, he had perfect vision in the eye that had limited movement.
The man went to an eye doctor that was affiliated with his primary care doctor. The eye doctor evaluated the man and assured him that the procedure was 'routine' and there was nothing to worry about. "The doctor had done this type of surgery many times before," he was told. The plan was to remove the muscle from the bone fragment, and then fix the bone. "You should have no problem with your vision after the surgery," remarked the eye doctor.
The patient had the surgery as scheduled. He never sought a second opinion as he was assured this eye doctor was capable to do the procedure. He never was referred out to a specialized eye surgeon who only does this type of surgery. The reason, I later learned, was that the medical group did not want to give up the patient to an 'outside' physician, since they would lose money if he had surgery elsewhere.
Surgery went well, or so the patient thought. A patch covered his eye and he was told to return the next day. The next day he returned to the doctor's office, had the patch removed and was asked "Well, what do you see?" The patient replied "I don't see anything. Did you take the patch off?"
Frantically, the eye doctor quickly examined the patient and found that there was a big problem- the optic nerve appeared dead. She immediately scheduled the patient for repeat surgery later that day. The patient underwent surgery later that afternoon in an attempt to get his vision back. During the second surgery, I learned during the course of the patient's lawsuit, that the doctor first checked the muscle. That was fine. The doctor checked the MRI that was taken immediately before the second surgery. The MRI revealed that the optic nerve was cut, through and through. It was severed in half. That's why the patient lost his vision.
Despite the MRI finding, the eye doctor confirmed this unfortunate fact during the second surgery. There was nothing that could be done to fix the severed optic nerve. The patient would never regain sight in his eye.
During the patient's lawsuit I learned that this eye doctor had done only a handful of these procedures. Most of these procedures were done by specialized eye doctors who perform this surgery on a regular basis. During the case the eye doctor's attorney tried to get the doctor dismissed from the case, claiming that this doctor did everything possible to help the patient. Yes, everything possible was being done- after this doctor had negligently and carelessly cut the optic nerve. The two key issues in the case were (1) That the doctor didn't have enough experience to do this surgery, and (2) The doctor cut the nerve that controls eyesight and never recognized that the optic nerve was severed. Because of significant issues that were present in the case, the doctor's attempt to get out of the case failed. I was able to obtain full and appropriate compensation for this man's vision loss shortly before the case went to trial.
Unfortunately for the patient, despite obtaining significant compensation, he will live his life with vision in only one eye. Every expert who reviewed this case confirmed that this medical error was totally preventable.
Gerry Oginski is an experienced medical malpractice and personal injury trial attorney practicing law in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, New York, Staten Island, Nassau & Suffolk. He has tirelessly represented injured victims in all types of medical malpractice and injury cases for over 19 years. As a solo practitioner he is able to devote 100% of his time to each individual client. A client is never a file number in his office.