Neurosurgeon Sued Over Wrong-Site Operation


All surgeries carry risk of error. However, some of these errors are preventable. Wrong-patient and wrong-site surgery is an example of such a preventable error. All such operations are serious but if the operation is necessary to save the person’s life, such an error can be that much worse. Further surgeries are then required to correct the original problem and possibly correct the damage done by the wrong-site surgery.

One woman in Florida is suing her neurosurgeon after he operated on the wrong side of her head. The patient, Carole Valente, had trigeminal neuralgia, an excruciating pain in the head. Surgery was the best and her last hope to stop the pain. After the surgery Valente was wheeled into recovery. Fifteen minutes later someone was asking her to sign a form, which she signed while still under the influence of the anesthesia. After she signed the paper she was taken back into the operating room. She did not realize until later that her neurosurgeon, Philip Tally, had operated on the wrong side of her head and that the paper she signed had authorized him to go back in and attempt the surgery again on the correct side of her head.

When Valente found out that Tally had made this same mistake before while performing surgery on another patient, she was very angry. The first time Tally made this mistake was in 1994. He was only fined $2,000 by the Florida Board of Medicine. For making the same mistake while operating on Valente, he was only chastened, fined $7,500, and required to give a lecture on wrong-site surgeries. The Florida Board of Medicine could have decided to revoke his medical license, suspend him, or place him on probation. After Valente found out that he had made this mistake before, she decided to sue Tally so as to protect other patients from suffering from the same error.

On the day of the surgery, Valente arrived in pre-op around 8 a.m. and headed into the operating room a couple hours later. Tally was not present. Valente asked to see Tally but she was told he was busy. She never saw him prior to the surgery.

Valente was never asked to identify the correct side of her head for the surgery, nor was her head marked on the correct side. During the mandatory surgical timeout the marking of the correct side was listed as “not applicable.” The medical board cast doubt on whether the timeout actually happened when reviewing the case.

Another physician has said that Valente now has vestibular nerve damage on both sides and it is inoperable. This is a condition that she did not have prior to the surgery. She is dizzy most of the time and becomes nauseated occasionally. She has to use a walker, rarely drives, and since she can no longer live on her own, is now selling her home to move near her family. Her lawsuit is seeking damages of more than $15,000.

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