Hospital Sued Over Tira Teenager's Post-operative Paralysis

Ran Reznick
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Ran Reznick

The parents of a 15-year-old girl who was left a permanent quadriplegic after undergoing treatment at the Dana Children's Hospital in Tel Aviv are suing the Health Ministry and the hospital for gross medical malpractice.

The girl, from the Triangle town of Tira, is now being treated at the Lowenstein rehabilitation facility in Ra'anana. According to the suit filed recently in the Be'er Sheva District Court, she is paralyzed from the neck down, "is incontinent and completely dependent on others around the clock." The girl and her parents are represented in court by attorneys Shay Feuering and Ashraf Sheikh Yusuf. The defendants have yet to file a response to the suit.

In August 2004, the girl was diagnosed as suffering from scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, and on July 28, 2005, she was operated on by Dr. Dror Ovadia, a senior pediatric orthopedist at Ichilov Hospital's children's wing, the Dana Children's Hospital. According to the plaintiffs, the day after the operation, the girl complained of tingling in her arms and legs, and a loss of feeling in her limbs.

Despite the fact that these symptoms generally signify pressure on the spine, she was not examined by a doctor, and it was not until two days after the operation that she was examined by Ovadia. After examining her, Ovadia determined that the symptoms were not related to the operation and were the result of emotional stress. On the third day after the original operation - some 36 hours after first complaining of loss of feeling, the girl underwent a second operation, during which the surgeon found internal bleeding that led to pressure on the spine. According to the plaintiffs, however, it was "too late, and the damage to the girl's spine was severe and irreversible."

Along with their suit, the plaintiffs also filed a medical opinion submitted by Dr. Gad Valan, a senior physician at the orthopedic department of Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva. Valan based his opinion on an examination of the girl at Lowenstein, as well as an examination of her complete medical records. In Valan's opinion, the girl's current situation is the result of a series of errors and gross negligence on the part of staff at Ichilov's pediatric orthopedic department.

"This is a clear case of post-operative failings and unreasonable decision-making by the operating surgeon, Dr. Ovadia, after the operation to correct the girl's scoliosis," Valan wrote in his opinion. "The direct and sole cause of the girl's current quadriplegic state after elective surgery is the substandard post-operative care that the girl received and the improper way important medical decisions were made."

Valan added that "the decisions taken by Dr. Ovadia are inexplicable, and the fact that he ignored the report [regarding the girl's complaint - R.R.] is not compatible with the behavior of a senior orthopedic surgeon. He should have rushed to the hospital, conducted thorough neurological exams and immediately transferred the patient to the operating room, since any delay in treatment, from the moment the symptoms were first reported, reduced the chances of recovery further down the line."

According to a statement issued by Ichilov, "the patient is a 15-year-old girl who suffered from severe scoliosis since birth, who was admitted for surgery by experienced and senior surgeons. The surgery ended without any untoward events and during the post-operative exam, the girl freely moved all four limbs. Some 24 hours later, the girl reported weakness in her limbs. As a result of these complaints, the girl was taken in for another operation, during which spinal bleeding was detected - an extremely rare complication in procedures of this type."

The hospital added that the family had been fully informed of the complexity of the operation and the risks involved, and that the hospital had even provided an Arabic-speaking translator in case the family did not understand the complicated medical language.