Governor Chris Christie recently underwent lap band surgery in an effort to significantly reduce his weight. Doctor Fielding, chief of NYU Langone Weight Management Program, has been named in 12 malpractice lawsuits in New York, including former Mets baseball player, Lee Mazzilli, after his teenage daughter suffered from stomach tears resulting from careless care.
According to the NY Post, a colleague of Fielding complained that he and Doctor Christine Ren (now his wife), would rush patients through the ER bypassing procedure such as adequate medical histories. Doctor Neelu Pal was so distressed by this shoddy workmanship that he called patients in order to warn them after seeing patient Rhonda Freiberg, 52, go into cardiac arrest a mere 36 hours after her surgery. In 2009 Rebecca Quatinetz passed away 6 weeks after her surgery. The autopsy later revealed that she died from a heart condition that she was unaware of. Oddly enough, the preoperative tests ordered by Fielding revealed this condition, which he failed to mention to her. In 2009 another patient Anne Marie Harrington passed away due to an esophageal perforation that Fielding failed to detect.
This is not the first time Doctor Fielding is being sued. In Australia, where he previously practiced; he was sued in eleven cases. A thorough investigation discovered that one of the patients, Shannon Tang, 21 who also passed away due to the operation had only met once with Fielding, one day before the surgery.
Governor Christie refused to comment on whether or not he knew of Fielding’s track record in Australia and previous surgeries. The governor did however claim that Fielding had been highly recommended by the Jets coach Rex Ryan, who has lost 100 pounds since his operation in 2010. According to the New York Post, Christie also did research and came to the conclusion that Fielding was the “foremost expert on it [“lap band” procedure] in the country.” A “lap band” procedure is when the doctor makes an incision through the belly button and ties a silicone tube around the top of the stomach to control food consumption.
Importantly, in NY, when an injured victim believes that a doctor or hospital was careless and that their carelessness caused harm, they have a legal right to bring a lawsuit against the doctor or hospital or both. However, before doing so, the injured victim and his counsel is required to consult with a qualified medical expert who confirms that (1) there was wrongdoing, (2) the wrongdoing caused injury and (3) that the injury is significant and/or permanent.
Once a lawsuit has been started, the defense has an absolute right to raise defenses in the case, known as 'affirmative defenses'. Likewise, defense attorneys will always argue, correctly, that just because someone has been sued, does not mean that the case has been proven or that the doctor was actually responsible for the injured victims' injuries.
Although the Post article clearly identifies prior lawsuits against Dr. Fielding, it makes no mention about any of the outcomes or whether those injured victims were successful in bringing suit against this doctor.