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Clay County Deputy Awarded $178 Million in Malpractice Lawsuit Against Hospital

Operating Doctors SurgeonsA Clay County lieutenant has been awarded $178 million after a jury ruled he was the victim of weight loss surgery malpractice. Clay Chandler was considered a likely heir apparent to Sheriff Rick Beseler, but now finds himself confined to a wheelchair after undergoing weight-loss surgery on the advice of medical staff – against his better judgement.

An active lieutenant who had never failed a physical exam, the 6 ft, 375 pound Chandler was advised to have weight loss surgery at Jacksonville’s Memorial Hospital. Doctors told him the procedure was less risky than continuing to live in his physical state. According to the bariatric surgery lawsuit filed against the hospital, Chandler is claiming damages for medical negligence and fraud.

His attorney said: “The tragic thing is that he understands what he was before and what he is now.”

Chandler suffered “low-flow stroke”

Chandler was admitted to the hospital in Spring 2007 to undergo a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery. He collapsed the next day after displaying signs of complications involving fluid leaking from his bowels into his abdomen, and was taken to emergency surgery to fix the problem.

Court documents from his bariatric surgery lawsuit included expert testimony from a hospital representative who said most weight loss doctors would have performed surgery at least two days earlier. By the time he underwent surgery, Chandler’s blood pressure had dropped so much he suffered what is known as a “low-flow stroke” in which the brain does not receive a sufficient supply of blood. He spent the next two weeks in a coma, during which the hospital failed to give him eye lubricant – a standard practice for comatose patients. This oversight caused permanent loss of vision, and was included as part of the weight loss surgery malpractice charges.

Chandler continues to suffer considerably. He cannot speak, walk or feed properly, and has difficulty bathing. The blame allegedly lies at the feet of a young, inexperienced doctor who lacked the advertised accreditation required of bariatric surgeons – hence the count of fraud.

During the trial, hospital president James Wood testified that the surgeon had performed no more than 21 bariatric procedures – well short of the 50 minimum required by the American Society Bariatric Surgery’s Center of Excellence.

The surgeon has subsequently gained the proper accreditation, and continues to perform weight loss surgery at Memorial. Prior to the settlement, the accreditation seal was being used on pamphlets given to potential patients, as well as being included on documents used as part of forums hosted at the hospital.

The jury ruled that those pamphlets, and other acts containing the accreditation seal, were acts of fraud. The jury’s verdict found the hospital knowingly allowed the surgeon to perform procedures he was not accredited for.

Bariatric surgery lawsuit finds hospital guilty of fraud

Another act of fraud was the hospital’s promotion of its bariatric center. According to Chandler’s bariatric surgery lawsuit, the Memorial Hospital falsely claimed that they employed a “team” of doctors and nurses committed to weight loss treatment. But patients who signed up – and paid for – the treatment discovered documents stating the staff were “independent” when they arrived at the hospital.