Monday, June 19, 2017

Texas spine surgery

Now serious allegations are being raised about another North Texas spine doctor. [See] Former patients filing lawsuits and complaints with the State allege their lives have been ruined by a surgeon putting profits over patient care.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but not every picture tells the whole story.

Pictures of a smiling Steven Pennington of Royce City, for example, mask his torture. The back pain that plagued him for 20 years and now the images of his headstone tell a final story. On July 22, 2015, Pennington took that pain to his grave.

The autopsy blames "sudden cardiac death," which occurred during his second back surgery. Pennington's family blames something else: an orthopedic surgeon once touted as Collin County's best -- Dr. Stephen Courtney.

The family has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Courtney for "gross negligence" and for trying to profiteer off Pennington by using his own surgical implants during surgery.
Dr. Courtney is co-founder of Eminent Spine. The company slogan on the website video is "Bad to the Bone."

The company designs and delivers surgical hardware such as the "Copperhead," the "King Cobra," the "Diamondback," and the "Python."

According to a video on the business' site, Dr. Courtney, "uses the product every day, on every patient."

“Eminent Spine offers quality products at a significantly lower cost that benefits everyone in healthcare, from the doctors and hospitals to the patients themselves,” the site said.

But according to multiple lawsuits and complaints on file with the Texas Medical Board, it is those devices that are being improperly and unnecessarily implanted in patient's spines.

Bryan Taylor of Collinsville hurt his back in November 2014. He was diagnosed with a herniated disc and received a steroid injection.

After a few weeks, still in pain, Taylor was referred to Dr. Courtney who, according to the suit, wanted to operate using the Python.

Federal Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines recommend that a patient should receive "six months of non-operative treatment" prior to performing surgery. Medical records show Taylor received only two months.

FDA guidelines also say the Python should be secured in place with "supplemental fixation" so it won't slip. According to his attorney, Kelly Liebbe, supplemental fixation was not used.

"Obviously, he didn't follow the standard of care what the FDA clearance told him to do," Liebbe alleged.

Liebbe showed WFAA an x-ray of Bryan's back and how the Python "spacer" in Taylor's back allegedly shifted after surgery.

"This is four months later. You can see the spacers are now tilted to the right, which indicates the spacer is moving, migrating out of place," Liebbe said.

Out of place, causing Taylor intense pain.

"I knew something wasn't right," Taylor said.

According to Taylor's lawsuit, a few weeks later, Dr. Courtney operated on Taylor's back again by re-installing the Python. Again without fixing it in place.

"Every time I had a surgery, he kept saying that this is what I need, and it's going to make it better and I trusted him," Taylor said. "It got to the point [where] I needed something to happen."

In June 2015, Dr. Courtney performed a third surgery on Taylor. It did not help, he said, who then sought the help of a second surgeon who removed Dr. Courtney's device.

Alan Tarrant of Plano also trusted Dr. Courtney, even after three failed surgeries involving Courtney implants, the Python and the Cottonmouth, which he said broke off in his spine rendering him permanently impaired.

Tarrant said he has been in constant pain, unable to work or bend, or sit for longer than a few minutes.

"I'm 48 years old and disabled," Tarrant said. "I've got nothing to look forward to, just going backwards, never getting better."

WFAA has identified other former patients with similar complaints against Courtney. And WFAA has learned of multiple complaints filed against Courtney with the Texas Medical Board dating back to 2012.

So far, none of the complaints has resulted in disciplinary action.

Records obtained by WFAA indicate Dr. Courtney is currently under investigation by the board…

WFAA made repeated attempts to contact Dr. Courtney. He did not respond.

In legal filings in lawsuits, his attorneys have denied all allegations of negligence and gross negligence...

All four patients suing Dr. Courtney had their procedures done and his devices implanted at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center Frisco.

Since those surgeries, Baylor Frisco has started following the lead of several major hospital chains across the country, in most cases, prohibiting surgeons from using their own implants on patients.

The Texas Medical Board has declined to comment on their investigation into the Courtney complaints.

Records show Dr. Courtney has now opened his own hospital, Eminent Medical Center, in Richardson.

1 comment:

  1. In addition, serious allegations are being raised and multiple lawsuits are being filed against yet another Texas surgeon, Dr. Stephen Courtney. Dr. Courtney is the co-found of Eminent Spine, which designs and delivers surgical devices. The company slogan on its website video is “Bad to the Bone.”

    As in the lawsuits against the other infamous Texas doctors, lawsuits filed against Dr. Courtney allege not only gross negligence, but placing profits over patient care. While Eminent Spine states that it offers quality products at a significantly lower cost, multiple lawsuits contend that the devices are being improperly and unnecessarily implanted in patient’s spines. Furthermore, Dr. Courtney is being accused of installing his own hardware into his patients, a conflict of interest which violates the standard of care. According to a report by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, this practice “can put the physician’s medical judgment at odds with the patient’s best interests.” To date, none of the complaints against Dr. Courtney have resulted in disciplinary action.

    So, why do these things continue to happen in Texas? The Texas Legislature has deliberately created a medical system that protects doctors like our infamous trio, and prevents patients from accessing the justice they so richly deserve. In 2003, lawmakers enacted the nearly impossible requirement that patients must prove that Texas hospitals intended to harm patients. Under Texas law, for a hospital to be liable for a doctor’s mistakes, the plaintiffs must prove that hospital administrators acted with actual intent to harm patients—that is, the hospital knew the risks and ignored them.

    In most cases, hospitals are also allowed to keep credentialing information confidential. In other words, plaintiffs have to prove an already tough case without access to the necessary hospital records. This means that in order to win a malpractice lawsuit in Texas, injured patients must prove that the doctor entered the operating room with the pure intent to harm the patient. This is about the equivalent of needing the doctor to get on a witness stand and say “on the day in question, I decided I wanted to permanently disable or kills someone”, in order for the plaintiff to prevail. Good luck with that! And, without the fear of litigation, there is no financial motivation for hospitals to police their own doctors, only a moral obligation, which seems to take a back seat to revenues.

    And, as if this isn’t bad enough, it gets even worse. Texas tort reform has wiped out the ability of most victims to sue for malpractice in court. These immunities or damage caps are nothing more than corporate bailouts of health care professionals and their insurance carriers at the expense of those who received substandard care and suffered live changing damages. Even if held accountable, the most innocent victims can collect in pain and suffering resulting from a doctor’s blatant malpractice is a meager $250,000.

    Furthermore, the Texas Medical Board (TMB) is mostly designed to monitor doctors’ licenses and ensure that the state’s medical practitioners are keeping up with professional standards. The Board doesn’t have the authority to inspect a doctor or to start an investigation on its own. Additionally, it can’t revoke a license without overwhelming evidence, which usually requires a lengthy, and costly, investigation. However, while the investigation is ongoing, a negligent doctor can continue to practice because investigations are kept confidential. The bottom line is that the Texas Legislature has built a system that protects doctors and hospitals while severely limiting patients’ options for holding the wrongdoers accountable for bad care.