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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

County May Pay Woman Hurt in Botched Surgery

May 16, 2000

LOS ANGELES — County officials have recommended paying $487,500 to settle the claim of a woman who will need to have part of her right leg amputated because of a botched surgery at Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar.

The county Board of Supervisors will make a final decision on the matter.

Reina De Leon arrived at the emergency room at Olive View in July 1996 complaining of vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain. Doctors determined that she had an ectopic pregnancy, a condition in which a fertilized egg implants itself outside the uterine wall. According to a report filed by the Los Angeles County Claims Board, doctors determined that one of her Fallopian tubes should be removed.

But during that surgery, a sharp pointed rod normally used to pierce the skin was incorrectly inserted into her abdomen, puncturing a part of the artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the right leg. Despite a drop in the patient's blood pressure and evidence of a large blood loss during surgery, doctors did not determine until two hours later that De Leon was bleeding internally, according to the report.

Several surgeries were later performed in an attempt to restore blood flow to De Leon's leg. About two months after the initial surgery, the toes on her right foot were amputated because of gangrene. According to the claims report, the lower part of De Leon's right leg will need to be amputated to provide her with a prosthesis to improve her mobility.

The report noted that De Leon initially refused blood transfusions because of her religious beliefs. After one surgery De Leon consented to a blood transfusion after being informed by doctors that she might die without it.

The claims board has recommended approval of the settlement, which includes payment of a $48,755 Medi-Cal lien and lifetime acute medical care.

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