REDLANDS – Surgeon Richard Kangah was found negligent Monday in a wrongful death suit by the husband of a woman he operated on in May 2009.
Court documents said that Kangah, a general surgeon with Redlands Community Hospital and Beaver Medical Group, was “negligent in the diagnosis or treatment,” and his negligence was a “substantial factor in causing damage” to Dirk Hansen, whose wife Kathy died May 8, 2009, after undergoing surgery to remove part of her pancreas at Redlands Community Hospital. A unanimous jury awarded Dirk Hansen more than $4.4 million in damages.
Physician Wisam Haddad, who assisted Kangah, also was found negligent, but his involvement as an assistant surgeon was not a substantial factor in the woman’s death, according to court documents.
“This patient went in for a very complicated procedure with no knowledge or information that she may be safer in the hands of a more experienced surgeon, and died as a result of Dr. Kangah’s negligence during the procedure,” said Redlands attorney Jeffrey Raynes, who represented Hansen.
Thompson & Colegate LLP in Riverside, the firm representing Kangah, declined to comment Wednesday.
Redlands Community Hospital was named in the suit filed April 29, 2010, in the Superior Court of San Bernardino County, and dismissed from the case by court order Dec. 15, 2010.
“It’s not an RCH problem, it’s a physician problem,” Raynes said.
The surgery performed on Kathy Hansen, known as a Whipple procedure, is the most common surgery for cancer of the pancreas, according to the American Cancer Society.
It is a “very complex operation,” and “best done by a surgeon who has done it many times in a hospital that does at least 20 Whipple procedures per year. This surgery is a major operation that carries a fairly high risk of complications that may be fatal,” according to the American Cancer Society’s website.
Raynes said the procedure is done at Redlands Community Hospital a few times a year. A facility that performs it less than seven times a year is considered a low-volume center, he said. Kangah had performed the surgery three times in his career before Kathy Hansen’s, he said.
A major vein was torn and repaired during Kathy Hansen’s surgery, and she was taken in for a second surgery, Raynes said. She died that evening, he said.
He said Hansen, who worked about nine years as a certified medical assistant for two family practitioners at the Highland Beaver facility, ended up not having cancer.
“They had reasonable suspicion,” he said. “The fact they operated was not an incorrect decision.”
“So the surgery needed to be done to remove a mass or tumor on the pancreas, but this is a procedure (in which) the patient should be referred to a major facility like USC, UCLA,” he said.
He said Haddad did not correctly voice concerns during the procedure, but the jury determined “even if he did Kangah would have gone forward,” he said.
“Ultimately the decision making was the surgeon’s,” he said.
Raynes said Wednesday the court has 10 days to modify judgment.
Kangah performed the first general surgery with the hospital’s new da Vinci surgical robot in May 2009, and traveled to Haiti to offer medical aid in April 2010.
Reference Article – Surgeon Found Negligent In Patient Death