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Woman files suit against surgeon

October 30, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

A Washington County surgeon who has been vocal about the state's medical malpractice crisis had a lawsuit filed against him in Washington County Circuit Court on Friday regarding a surgery he performed in 2001, according to court records.

The lawsuit alleges that Dr. Karl P. Riggle performed a right axillary node dissection rather than a diagnostic right axillary node biopsy on Mary Kay Kling of Shade Gap, Pa., on April 20, 2001, court records state. Twenty-one axillary lymph nodes were removed during the dissection.

Kling experienced persistent numbness under her right arm following the procedure, the lawsuit alleges.

By July 2, 2001, the numbness extended down her arm, the lawsuit states. She was admitted to Fulton County (Pa.) Medical Center with swelling, pain and tenderness in her right arm on May 18, 2003, the lawsuit states.

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She continues to suffer from right upper extremity edema and is receiving treatment, including physical and occupational therapy, the lawsuit alleges.

Kling and her husband, Daniel, filed the lawsuit against Riggle and the Hagerstown Surgical Clinic, Drs. Sachs, Riggle, West & Nguyen.

Dr. Stephen Sachs said he, Dr. Ilana West and Dr. Anhtai Nguyen have nothing to do with that case. Riggle and Nguyen no longer are with the surgical clinic at 11110 Medical Campus Road.

Riggle said he could not comment on the case because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

"Her rights as a patient are protected," Riggle said. "I can't discuss the medical side."

Riggle said he had not received a copy of the local lawsuit.

A lawsuit Mary Kay Kling filed against him in U.S. District Court around Oct. 8, 2003, was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction on Oct. 26 this year, the local lawsuit states.

Riggle said he was aware the federal lawsuit had been dismissed, but he wasn't sure if the local lawsuit and the federal one held the same claims.

In the local lawsuit, Kling is asking a jury to determine amounts to be awarded to her for losses, damages and injuries caused by the carelessness, recklessness and negligence of the defendants.

She also is asking for a jury to determine amounts to be awarded to her because she was not informed that all her right axillary lymph nodes would be removed and would not have consented to the dissection, the lawsuit states.

Kling and her husband also are asking a jury to determine how much to award them because they suffered a loss of services and consortium and interference and energy to their marital relationship, the lawsuit alleges.

Kling was sent to Riggle after she was diagnosed with a fever of unknown origin at Fulton County Medical Center in McConnellsburg, Pa., and transferred to Washington County Hospital, the lawsuit states. A mammogram showed a lobular mass in the midregion of her left breast and a surgical consult was sought for a possible biopsy of the axillary lymph nodes and breast mass.

Riggle was one of four Washington County doctors who met with Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich on Oct. 4 to discuss the state's medical malpractice crisis because several county physicians groups had said they would stop performing nonemergency surgery on Nov. 15.

Riggle is a member of the Governor's Task Force on Medical Malpractice and Health Care Access.

"If I weren't involved in what I'm doing, nobody would be writing about this," Riggle said. "She has a right to the day in court and I'm not trying to change that."

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