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Surgeon will pay $3,000 fine for removing a kidney he mistook for cancerous mass

John Pacenti, The Palm Beach Post on

Published in News & Features

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A West Palm Beach surgeon has agreed to pay a $3,000 fine -- among other penalties -- for accidentally removing a woman's kidney, thinking it was a cancerous mass, according to the Florida Board of Medicine.

Dr. Ramon Vazquez, a West Palm Beach surgeon, was tasked with opening up Maureen Pacheco on April 29, 2016, at Wellington Regional Medical Center. Orthopedic surgeons were then scheduled to perform a spinal fusion to alleviate Pacheco's lower back pain.

But Pacheco had a condition from birth in which her kidney never ascended into the abdomen and was located in her pelvic region. Vazquez saw the undeveloped but functioning organ as cancer and removed it only to find out later from a pathologist that it was, in fact, an intact pelvic kidney.

The Florida Health Department filed a complaint in December 2017, saying the cancer diagnosis was not related to the patient's medical condition and "therefore medically unnecessary."

The Board of Medicine initially rejected a settlement with a $1,500 fine.

Under the final settlement, Vazquez must also give a one-hour lecture on wrong-site surgery to the entire medical staff of a hospital where he maintains staff privileges. Vazquez must also complete three hours of medical education on preoperative evaluation of surgical patients and pay $4,800 in costs.

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"Dr. Vazquez is an excellent surgeon who has been providing exemplary, often life-saving services in our community for many years," said the surgeon's attorney, Michael Burt.

"In this instance he, in collaboration with other members of the surgical team, exercised professional judgment."

Burt said the settlement is minimal because it reflects Vazquez's role in the accidental removal of a kidney.

The Health Department in documents stated that the fact that Vazquez had no prior discipline and that two other surgeons agreed the mass should be removed "due to potential malignancy" reduced the harshness of the discipline.


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