Surgeon removes woman's kidney during back surgery after mistaking it for cancerous tumor

A Florida surgeon mistook a woman’s healthy kidney for a cancerous tumor — and inexplicably removed it during a routine back surgery, according to a report.

Maureen Pacheco, then 51, checked into Wellington Regional Medical Center back in April 2016 to get the bones in her lower back fused in the wake of a car accident, The Palm Beach Post reported.

During the operation, Dr. Ramon Vazquez spotted the organ — which he believed to be a tumor, declared an emergency and removed it, according to a lawsuit obtained by the paper that was settled in September.

Pacheco never had a say in the matter, according to the lawsuit.


And Vazquez wasn’t even the one performing the back surgery. His job was to cut her open so surgeons could perform the operation.

“As you can imagine, when someone goes in for a back surgery, she would never expect to wake up and be told when she’s just waking up from anesthesia, that one of her kidneys has been unnecessarily removed,” Pacheco’s attorney, Donald J. Ward, told the paper.

Florida’s Department of Health has since filed a complaint against Vasquez — saying he provided a “presumptive diagnosis of a gynecologic malignancy, lymphoma, and/or other metastatic disease.”

Vazquez, who has served as chairman of surgery at Palm Beach Medical Center since January — and also has privileges at St. Mary’s and Good Samaritan medical centers, as well as Bethesda Memorial Hospital — could be required to a pay a fine, at best, or lose his medical license, at worst, according to the report.

Prior to this complaint — and a malpractice claim filed by Pacheco, he had a clean disciplinary record, according to the report.


“The case was settled on his behalf for a nominal amount due to the uncertainty of litigation and in no way did Dr. Vazquez admit liability by agreeing to this settlement,” Vazquez’s attorney Mark Mittelmark told the paper in an email.

He does not carry malpractice insurance. The malpractice insurers for Pacheco’s primary surgeons — Dr. John Britt and Dr. Jeffrey Kugler, settled for $250,000 apiece, the outlet reported.

Surgical mistakes like Vasquez’s are known as “wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient errors” and are termed “never events” — meaning that they should never happen, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.