Gov. Chris Christie’s Lap-Band Surgeon Sued Over Four Patients’ Deaths

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s lap-band surgeon was named in 12 malpractice suits in New York, including a suit by former Mets player Lee Mazzilli. Dr. George Fielding, the head of NYU Medical Center’s Weight Management Program, was sued by the families of three patients who died under his care.

Eleven more lawsuits were filed against Fielding in Australia, where he used to practice.

Mazzilli sued when his teen daughter suffered stomach perforations after a procedure.

A 2003 coroner’s report on Shannon Tang, 21, said Fielding failed to do a preoperative workup on the 381-pound Singaporean. Fielding allegedly met Tang just a day before the surgery and failed to explain to him the risks.

The New York Post reported Fielding and his now-wife Dr. Christine Ren are at the center of an ongoing whistleblower lawsuit that alleges they rushed patients through the ER without taking adequate medical histories.

Patient Rebecca Quatinetz, 27, said that she was laid up for six weeks after her May 2009 lap-band procedure. She had six follow-ups, but her suit said the band was still too tight. An autopsy showed she died from a heart condition she did not know about.

“She was starving,” said family lawyer Karyn Schiller. “She couldn’t get or keep anything down.”

Quatinetz’s family said Fielding’s preoperative tests found the heart condition, but no one notified Quatinetz.

“We believe Dr. Fielding did not review the results of his own tests,” Schiller said. “So Rebecca, who met him once, three days before surgery, did not give informed consent or get treatment that could have saved her life.”

Another suit in the 2009 death of 45-year-old Anne Marie Harrington alleges Fielding and his team failed to detect an esophageal tear.

Patient Rhonda Freiberg, 53, went into cardiac arrest 36 hours after gastric band surgery. A suit stemming from her death was settled in 2008.

Christie, 50, refused Friday to disclose whether he knew of these claims before he underwent the procedure. Previous reports showed that, in the interest of privacy, Fielding met with Christie in his home in Mendham instead of making him go to his New York office for care.

Gastric band surgery is a minimally invasive procedure. The banding system constricts the size of the stomach so that less food can be put into it at a time.

Christie had the surgery on Feb. 16.

“I went in at 7 a.m. He met me in the lobby, walked me upstairs, and I had the surgery at 7:30.,” he said. “I was out of surgery by 8:10 and home by 5.”

Christie did not say how much weight he lost, but her did tell the Post, “A week or two ago, I went to a steakhouse and ordered a steak and ate about a third of it and I was full.”

Sources: NY Post, The Patch