Suit Filed on Behalf of Man who Died During Surgery at Surgical Center

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Posted on April 14, 2015

By Daniel Tepfer

BRIDGEPORT- The family of a Stratford man, who died during surgery at an out-patient surgical center in Trumbull, claims the center's medical staff mistakenly dosed him with a toxic agent.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Superior Court, claims the staff at the Surgery Center of Fairfield County, at 112 Quarry Road, performed more complex surgery on 53-year-old Michael Palmer Sr. than the center is authorized to do. The center is run by Surgical Care Affiliates, LLC, operator of about 185 surgical centers nationwide.

Palmer, a father of eight who worked as bus driver for the Connecticut Transit Authority, was undergoing a cervical spine fusion operation in May 2013, at the surgical center. Although Palmer had asked that the surgery be done at a hospital, members of his medical team persuaded him to have the procedure performed in the outpatient center in which they were part owners, telling him the surgery at a hospital would not be covered by his insurance, the suit states.

"This case, like the widely publicized death of Joan Rivers, highlights some of the problems posed by the proliferation of privately-owned chains of profit-making surgical centers throughout the nation," said Michael Koskoff, who represents the Palmer family.

"This is one of three deaths that we are investigating in surgical centers in Connecticut in just the past two years. Something is clearly wrong with the way these centers are being operated," Koskoff said.

During Palmer's surgery, a medical assistant pressed against a blood pressure cuff causing a drop in the blood pressure reading. At that point, the lawsuit states, the anesthesiologist negligently administered the 4 percent Lidocaine which had been stored in the wrong place. "Hospitals have precautions in place to prevent this type of error," Koskoff said. "This surgical center obviously did not."

After the administration of the toxic agent Palmer was administered CPR and rushed to St. Vincent's Medical Center where he died, the suit states.

This lawsuit also names Dr. Sandra Joyce Congdon, an anesthesiologist, Dr. Gerard J. Girasole, an orthopedist, and Dr. Abraham Mintz, a neurosurgeon. Girasole and were part owners of the surgical center where Palmer had the fatal procedure, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants violated state regulations by permitting the surgery to go ahead even though it was complex surgery that had not been approved or authorized by the center's governing body.

"A conflict of interest may come into play when a doctor has a choice of performing a procedure in his own surgical center, or a hospital," said Koskoff. "Unless the out-patient center is prepared for the surgery, the hospital is a safer choice."