The family of an 81-year-old Michigan woman who died following unnecessary brain surgery has been awarded $21 million in damages by a Wayne County court.
In January 2012, Bimla Nayyar was operated on at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn. What should have been a simple procedure on her jaw went disastrously wrong when her CT scan records were mixed up with another patient’s file.
“In 37 years of practice, this is the most shocking abuse I have ever seen,” said Geoffrey Fieger, an attorney representing the Nayyar family.
According to Fieger, Nayyar was hoping to obtain relief from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Hospital staff allegedly put Nayyar’s name on the wrong X-ray form, and only realized their error after five holes had been drilled into Nayyar's head and her skull opened up.
“They poked around in her brain before realizing they had the wrong patient,” Fieger said.
Sara Atwell, Oakwood’s chief quality and patient safety officer, insisted in an affidavit that the mistake had not been the result of a failure to develop or follow proper procedures.
“We're very concerned about how the details of this case have been portrayed,” Oakwood Hospital said in a statement. “This matter will be appealed. However, because this is an active legal case, we cannot comment any further."
But Fieger maintains a criminal offense was committed, and has asked Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to investigate.
He also alleged that, although the mistake had been acknowledged by the hospital, “they never apologized to the family.”
Following Nayyar’s death in hospice care two months after the operation, her family took the remains to her native country, India, and scattered them in the River Ganges.
"[The hospital] made a mistake," Nayyar's relative Subesh Kundal said. "They said she was old and sick, but it doesn't matter. The operation made her sicker."