Worcester man can’t believe doctor removed kidney in error

Mistaken-identity medical case still waiting court resolution

ALBERT HUBBARD of Worcester said he woke up from kidney-removal surgery in 2016 with his doctor sitting about a foot away from him with a “god-awful look on his face.”

The doctor, urologist Ankur Parikh, informed Hubbard that taking out his kidney had been a mistake – that there was nothing wrong with it.

“He claimed that he didn’t have to tell me, but he wanted to do the right thing,” Hubbard said in a recent telephone interview. “I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t say a word. This couldn’t be happening to me, I kept thinking over and over again in my head. It must be a dream and I’ll wake up from it.”

Asked if Parikh apologized for removing his healthy kidney, Hubbard said, “Not in so many words.”

Parikh, 37, signed a consent order with the Board of Registration in Medicine admitting that he removed the healthy kidney in error. The order did not identify the patient by name, but Hubbard, a 65-year-old retired computer technician, is pursuing a lawsuit against Parikh and a number of other parties involved in the surgical blunder. (The lawsuit was first reported by the Telegram & Gazette in 2017.)

Dr. Ankur Parikh

“It was a sunny day in July,” Hubbard said of his initial appointment with Parikh. “I actually walked over to Dr. Parikh’s office maybe two miles away. I went in there thinking, you know, no big deal. I had a little blood in my urine and that was it. And basically, he dropped a bomb on me.”

Parikh showed Hubbard a CT scan that revealed a 5-inch white tumor on a kidney. “He told me that my kidney had to be removed right away and that I probably had a 43 to 72 percent chance of surviving five years even if the surgery was successful,” Hubbard said. “I was in shock, total complete shock.”

A week later, Parikh took out Hubbard’s left kidney, a procedure called radical nephrectomy, at the for-profit St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, an affiliate of UMass Memorial Medical Center.

The removal of a wrong organ is referred to as a “never event”—the kind of mistake that should never happen in medical care. Other never events include performing the wrong procedure on a patient, performing surgery on a wrong body part, and unintentionally leaving behind a foreign object like a sponge in a patient. More than 4,000 surgical never events occur each year in the United States.

The removal of Hubbard’s healthy kidney came about because Parikh reviewed the wrong CT scan when he logged into the medical records system of UMass Memorial Medical Center, according to the consent order he signed. He went into the system looking for Albert Hubbard, but the scan he found belonged to another Albert Hubbard who was not his patient but also had a CT scan of his kidney done on the very same day at the medical center. This perfect storm of coincidences led to the removal of a healthy kidney from the wrong patient.

Parikh failed to follow proper protocol when he logged into the medical records system at UMass Memorial Medical Center. He used just his patient’s first and last name, but he should have used at least a second patient identifier such as a date of birth or medical record number as a double-check. As a result, Parikh wound up looking at a CT scan belonging to a different Albert Hubbard.

At various other times between the initial office visit between Parikh and his patient and the evening before the surgery, Parikh logged into the system to view what he thought was his patient’s CT scan. But he accessed the system by using a tool that allows users to examine the images they recently viewed without having to reenter the patient’s identifiers. As a result, Parikh kept looking at the wrong CT scan.

After the surgery was over, Parikh was informed by a hospital pathologist that there was no tumor to be found on the kidney. Shortly thereafter, it was determined what went wrong.

As a result of the surgical gaffe, St. Vincent was cited by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for failing to comply with patient identification protocols. Parikh was reprimanded in January by the state medical board, which considers a reprimand to be a “severe form of censure.”

Hubbard’s lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges that, as a result of the tragic mix-up, he now has a substantially greater risk of dying prematurely due to an increased risk of kidney and cardiac disease, is experiencing psychological harm and decreased vitality, must make significant changes to his lifestyle, and will incur medical expenses as a result of him having to be closely monitored for the rest of his life.

The two hospital entities and other defendants named in Hubbard’s complaint declined to comment.

“Even though the liability is clear, it is troubling that two years later the defendants, except for Parikh, named in our lawsuit still repeatedly deny any culpability for the wrong removal of my client’s healthy kidney,” said Hubbard’s lawyer, Jeffrey Raphaelson. “There are multiple insurance companies involved, each wanting to pay less, or nothing, and the others to pay more.  Apparently, the jury will have to decide how to compensate Mr. Hubbard for this horrible outcome.”

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Hubbard said that as a result of the surgical snafu, he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder with flashbacks and anxiety attacks, and is seeing a psychotherapist for help.

“The whole thing has made me become somewhat of a recluse,” he said. “I have pulled away from people. And I have a lot of mistrust right now of all doctors. Plus, I need to be extremely cautious about doing anything that could injure my remaining kidney.”