April 20, 2007

Baltimore Woman Sues Doctor After Finding Surgical Debris Was Left in Abdomen

By Brendan Kearney

An East Baltimore woman is suing her former gynecologist, claiming he left pieces of sponge, gauze and plastic debris in her abdomen that were still there six years after the operation.

In a suit filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court, LaShawn McClary, now 40, alleges the detritus from a 2001 operation was discovered on her first visit to a new gynecologist in February, and that she lost her uterus, Fallopian tubes and small bowel as a result.

"I was furious," McClary said Wednesday in an interview at the Baltimore office of her attorney, Marvin Ellin. "I couldn't believe I carried this for so long and lived to tell about it."

"It's incredible that she didn't die, it really is," Ellin said. "I intend to ask for a jury to give this woman five million bucks for six years of living hell."

According to the suit, McClary underwent surgery at Sinai Hospital in January 2001 for removal of a myoma, a noncancerous growth in the uterus.

Her gynecologist at the time, Dr. Sheo P. Sharma, noted in his operative report that she "tolerated the procedure well" and that "sponge, lap and needle counts were correct times two" - meaning two post-operative checks indicated all inserted instruments and materials had been removed.

During a checkup in May 2001, McClary complained of abdominal pain and vaginal discharge. Sharma told her such discomforts "were to be expected and that they would go away," according to the complaint.

McClary, an analyst at Blue Cross Blue Shield, said she relied on Sharma's expertise to her detriment. In all, she saw him six times between 2001 and 2002.

"I was still having pain," she said. "You can only accept what your physician tells you."

Doctors who saw her between 2002 and 2007 likewise relied on Sharma's operative report, according to the complaint.

"If anyone had thought of taking an X-ray," Ellin said, the debris "would've been removed years ago."

In February, McClary switched to a new gynecologist, Dr. Thelma Asare, who operated at Greater Baltimore Medical Center with the help of a general surgeon, the suit states.

In addition to infected reproductive and digestive organs, the February surgery yielded "sponge," gauze, and "blue plastic material," the pathology report from that surgery says.

"I've handled hundreds of malpractice cases, and this is absolutely ridiculous," Ellin said. "Blue plastic! What in the world that was, I don't know."

By Ellin's reckoning, the total came to 3.1 ounces of foreign material, some of which he displayed on white-colored napkins in his conference room while McClary sat expressionless nearby. The room smelled strongly of formaldehyde.

The surgical remnants led to small bowel adhesions and infections that resulted in McClary being "gynecologically wiped out" and likely to require future surgery, Ellin said.

McClary, the mother of a 21-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son, seeks compensation for pain and suffering, missed work and the second surgery, according to the suit.

In addition to Sharma, the complaint names as defendants his office, Femi-care Surgical Center LLC; Sinai Hospital of Baltimore Inc., and Sinai Hospital Medical Staff Associates PA.

Terri Leonovich, associate general counsel for Sinai Hospital, was not aware of the suit and declined to comment on its specifics.

"The hospital takes seriously any allegation that a physician left something in a patient," Leonovich said.

Femi-care referred calls to attorney Richard L. Gershburg, who did not return a call seeking comment.

Sharma received a reprimand and a one-year probation from the Maryland Board of Physicians in 1997 for failing "to meet the standard of care with regard to a patient in his practice of obstetrics," according to the group's March 1998 newsletter.

(c) 2007 The Daily Record (Baltimore). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.