Man sues UW doctor after alleged botched surgery, wrong organ removed

A man from Lake Forest Park was left fighting for his life following an alleged botched surgery. And now he’s suing the doctor from University of Washington Medicine, accusing the defendants of “medical negligence.”

The suit says a simple appendix removal went horribly wrong when the surgeon removed a piece of a different organ instead – a chunk of George Piano’s colon.

In fact, the surgery went so awry that Piano said he almost died.

Now his family said they’ve filed a lawsuit in hopes of preventing a similar situation from happening to anyone else.

“It’s been a hell of a year,” Piano said.

He is still suffering from what should’ve been a standard appendectomy almost a year ago, on December 6, 2022.

“I’m not the same person I was when this started,” Piano said.

He told us that he went to the emergency room at UWMC Northwest for abdominal pain and was diagnosed with appendicitis – meaning he needed his appendix removed.

But the next morning, Piano said something was clearly wrong.

“When I woke up and came out of the drugs, I was in serious pain. Much worse than I had been in when I went to the hospital,” he said.

The just-filed lawsuit says that’s because the doctor ended up removing a piece of his colon while leaving the inflamed appendix behind – meaning Piano quickly needed another surgery to actually remove it. The suit also alleges that the doctor also punctured the colon.

“It was horrifying,” said Betsy Piano, George Piano’s wife.

“I was suffering from a leaking colon that created sepsis and infection. And I almost died from it,” George Piano said.

As for the follow-up from the surgeon who performed the alleged botched appendectomy, Piano said she didn’t come and address the situation until eight days later.

“She seemed to just make light of it. And that upset me,” Piano said.

The lawsuit includes an assessment from a third-party surgical expert from California, Dr. Hobart Harris, who analyzed the case. Harris wrote that he believes what happened “breached the standard of care.”

Harris added he believes the surgeon did so by “misidentifying the sigmoid colon for the appendix” and “perforating the sigmoid colon while thinking they are dividing the base of the appendix.”

Piano said he had to go through four additional surgeries, needed an ileostomy bag, and had an open wound the size of a pool ball in his abdomen for months - all the while dealing with intense pain.

“It’s been a rough haul,” Piano said.

He said since the nearly year-long medical ordeal, he’s also lost 40 pounds, spent 53 days total in the hospital, has anxiety, and is dealing with short-term memory loss.

“To watch someone you love, your family member go through that kind of trauma. It’s horrifying, it is,” Betsy Piano said.

Personal injury attorney Edward Moore, representing the Pianos, said he’s seen botched surgeries but nothing like this.

“I’ve never heard of someone who was unable to locate an appendix,” Moore said. “For it to result in this kind of harm and disruption is mind-boggling.”

The Pianos said they didn’t want to file the lawsuit, but after getting no response from the hospital, they believed it was necessary.

“I feel very lucky that I’m still alive,” George Piano said. “We didn’t want it to happen to someone else. Someone needed to put a stop to this and take responsibility and say this happened – we need to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The lawsuit does not ask for any specific monetary value. And Moore said he thinks it should be up to a medical board to decide what kind of career consequences the surgeon accused should face.

In a statement about this lawsuit from UW Medicine, a spokesperson said:

“We strive to provide the best possible care to all of our patients; their safety and well-being is deeply important to us. This suit was just filed yesterday so, given the timeline, we are not able to comment on the specifics of the case.”

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