Dr. Santusht Perera is back in practice; he is operating again, this time at Hoboken University Medical Center in Hudson County, New Jersey. On August 29, 2000, Dr. Perera was practicing at Meadowlands Hospital in Secaucus when he performed surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from the right lung of Richard Flagg. Problem – the tumor was on Mr. Flagg’s left lung. By itself, this would have been an unfortunate error. But, when Dr. Perera realized his error, he made no move to own up to his mistake. Rather, he elected to cover up his error and told Mr. Flagg that the right lung (the healthy one) contained a life-threatening tumor. Additionally, Dr. Perera altered Mr. Flagg’s medical records to show he intended to operate on the right lung. By removing a large portion of the right lung it became impossible to remove the cancerous left lung. Mr. Flagg was forced to live the rest of his life with a diseased lung and on oxygen 24-hours a day. It wasn’t until several months later when Mr. Flagg picked up his hospital records, and noticed that a pathology report showed no evidence of a tumor on his right lung. Mr. Flagg died on September 8, 2003 at the age of 63, after three years of suffering. His case did not resolve until June 2004.
So, why is Dr. Perera still around and practicing medicine? In June 2008, Dr. Perera was fined $81,000, had his medical license was suspended from June to December 2008, and was placed on probation; he was not pervented from future practice. Thus, in July 2009, six-months after his “active” suspension, Dr. Perera was granted surgical privileges at Hoboken University Medical Center. Meadowlands Hospital and the Jersey City Medical Center had both denied him privileges.
The Flagg case was blatant medical malpractice made worse by the doctor’s attempt to cover-up his negligence. The big question today, almost ten years later? Why is Hoboken allowing this doctor to practice in their hospital? Why is he still performing surgery? The Medical Center CEO, Spiros Hatiras, said that once his license was re-instated, the hospital “had little choice” but to re-instate him. Dr. Perera must be monitored during surgeries for six months to make sure he is complying with all standards and procedures. But, what happens when the six month monitoring period is up? He is on his own again? And, how did his license get reinstated in the first place?
Despite his deteriorating health and physical limitations, Mr. Flagg fought to the end amd campaigned against tort reform in medical malpractice cases. He wanted to help assure that patients who were hurt by their healthcare providers could hold those providers accountable and receive fair compensation for their pain, suffering and unfortunate circumstances. In February 2003, Mr. Flagg presented a statement to the Public Citizen and the Center for Justice and Democracy. Here is just a portion of his poignant words:
Now, I’m somewhat of an amateur historian, and I do have a degree in history, as well as one in biology and a minor in chemistry, and it seems to me that back in 1789 when the Constitution of the United States was written our forefathers had in mind one thing. Justice in this country was to be decided by a jury of our peers.
This is not true today. It is in criminal cases. It is in murders. It is in robberies. It isn’t in medical malpractice. If Mr. Bush has his way and the states that already have these caps on certain parts of tort reform, this is what we can look forward to getting worse and worse.
I made a quote on a forum on a Web site last week in New Jersey. Someone asked me how do you feel about what’s happening with tort reform. I answered it very simply. Once you start taking a person’s individual rights and freedoms of our American citizens away, where does it stop? It doesn’t, and I referenced Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, and so forth down the line.
I received 125 answers, all of them saying thank you; we didn’t know.
There is our problem today. It’s mostly misinformation or lack of information.
I would like to see people in this room, each one become ambassadors to this. Talk as hard and as long as you can to stop what’s happened. That’s what we need more than anything else.
Lawsuit Financial once again asks all readers to join our pro-justice lawsuit funding company in our quest to adhere to our constitutional rights and stop what has become known as "tort reform". Let’s honor the legacy of Mr. Flagg and finish the work that he started following his own personal tragedy with a medical mistake. It is time to stop sacrificing individual rights on the alter of corporate success. It is time for all of us, we the people, to reclaim our rights as important citizens of America.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.