Couple sues doctor after daughter's obesity surgery

David Yates Aug. 14, 2007, 10:12am

A Louisiana couple is suing a Port Neches doctor for ignoring their child after obesity surgery.

The couple claims they brought their obese daughter in for follow-up treatment on numerous occasions after her "lap band" surgery, but the doctor never took the time to personally evaluate the young girl.

Warren and Melissa Strother allege their daughter developed pancreatitis due "to the lack of appropriate care by Dr. Felix Spiegel."

They filed their medical-malpractice lawsuit against the local doctor with the Jefferson County District Court on Aug. 13.

According to the plaintiffs' original petition, the minor child was a patient under the care of Dr. Spiegel. On June 24, 2005, the girl was admitted to the Physicians Surgery of Houston, where Dr. Spiegel performed a Laparoscopic Gastric Banding, or better known as the lap band procedure.

The physicians who developed the procedure, The International Obesity Surgery Team (ILOST), say the idea behind the lap band operation is to create a small pouch in the upper part of the stomach with a controlled and adjustable stoma, without stapling, thus limiting food intake.

"A gastric band device is introduced through tiny (1cm) incisions in the abdomen and is placed around the upper part of the stomach," ILOST Web site said. "The resulting pouch (or the new stomach') dramatically reduces the functional capacity of the stomach. The band has a balloon from the inside that is adjustable and can reduce stoma size, thus prolonging the period of fullness."

After the procedure, the Strothers' daughter began complaining of an inability to keep certain foods down. The couple brought their daughter in for examination, and the child's lap band was adjusted and the family was instructed to return in October for another follow-up evaluation.

"(The plaintiffs' daughter) returned to see Dr. Spiegel�with continued complaints of abdominal pain and choking sensation, and was seen by Dr. Spiegel's staff," the suit said. "Again, the lap band was adjusted and she was instructed to return if her symptoms persisted."

The girl returned "on numerous occasions" to Dr. Spiegel's Jefferson County facility, complaining of periodic bouts of severe abdominal pain and the inability to keep food down, the suit said.

"On each occasion, (the girl) was seen by Dr. Spiegel's staff," the suit said. "On each occasion, the staff simply documented (her) symptoms and adjusted the lap band. At no time was (she) seen by Dr. Spiegel for these continued complaints related to the lap band procedure.

"The (girl's) condition continued to deteriorate to the point she was seen in the emergency room at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital on July 25, 2006. The following day (she) was rushed to the hospital and an esophagogastroduodenoscopy was performed revealing the presence of a concentric constrictor around the esophagus and the presence of necrotic tissue in the field.

"The gastric banding device had migrated, creating a life threatening condition. On July 27, 2006, (the girl) was transferred to Lake Charles Women's and Children's Hospital, where, she underwent emergency surgery for prolapse of the stomach."

The plaintiffs contend that if Dr. Spiegel took the time to properly evaluate their daughter, the young girl would have never developed pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas.

The plaintiffs are suing for past and future mental anguish, physical impairment and disfigurement, pain and medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, plus recovery of pre and post-judgment interest.

In addition, the plaintiffs are also suing for loss of support, companionship and consortium, and are also seeking exemplary damages.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Scott Browne of the Browne & Browne law firm.

According to a Weight-Loss Surgery Web site, Dr. Spiegel opened a private practice, the Texas Laparoscopy Center, TLC, in Southeast Texas and Houston in 2001. He is certified by the American Board of Surgery and fellow of the American College of Surgery. Dr. Spiegel received his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine and completed his residency training at Beth Israel Medical Center where he began to perform laparoscopic surgery.

He was involved with the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy performed in New York in 1989. He was among the first surgeons to master this procedure. Now Dr. Spiegel has mastered the LapBand Surgery for obesity. He has had extensive experience in performing this obesity surgery with more than 3,000 successful patients. Dr. Spiegel continues to develop new, minimally invasive surgical techniques.

Judge Bob Wortham, 58th Judicial District, will preside over the case.

Case No. A179-811

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