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DOCTOR FILES SUIT FOR $27 MILLION AGAINST KAISER

Oregonian, The (Portland, OR) - Tuesday, May 5, 1998
Author: DAVID R. ANDERSON of the Oregonian Staff
Summary: Dr. Warren L. Anderson's action claims he was left a partial quadraplegic following surgery

A Kaiser Sunnyside doctor -- the former head of its neurology department -- filed a lawsuit Monday against his hospital for $27.5 million, saying surgery on his spine left him a partial quadraplegic.

Dr. Warren L. Anderson, 54, can no longer dress or bathe himself, can't pick up anything heavier than a book, can't control his bowels or bladder and appears to be seriously drunk when he walks, said his attorney, Stuart Teicher.

And, Anderson will never practice medicine again.

``I think it's a devastating loss that you can't do what you love doing,'' Teicher said. ``It's horribly ironic, if only because he understands what it means.''

Anderson named Kaiser Permanente, Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center and Northwest Permanente as defendants in his lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Anderson specifically did not name individual doctors because they were his colleagues, Teicher said. And, he only sued his former hospital, where he had worked five years of his 28-year career, as a last resort.

``He's very, very unhappy that it's come to this,'' Teicher said. ``We've tried to reach an accommodation since August.''

Kaiser officials could not immediately comment, said Jim Gersbach, a Kaiser spokesman.

Anderson underwent surgery March 20, 1997, for a procedure known as decompressive surgical laminectomies. Spaces within the vertabrae in his neck had become closed, pinching nerves and causing pain and numbness in his neck and arms, Teicher said. The surgery was designed to relieve the pressure and remove excess disk material to create more space.

Within two or three hours after the surgery, Anderson experienced temporary paralysis, Teicher said. During his next six days in the hospital, he had what Teicher called ``major system problems'' -- no control of his bowels or bladder, little strength in his limbs and limited mobility.

The day after he was released from the hospital, doctors found a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in his lung, that was potentially deadly. Doctors treated the clot with medication. Anderson told his doctors at the time about the neurological problems he was suffering.

The next day, Anderson became completely paralyzed from the neck down. An emergency MRI found a large epidural hematoma, or blood clot, pressing on his spinal cord where the surgery had been conducted. Emergency surgery removed the clot, and Anderson was sent to a Portland rehabilitation center six days later.

After three weeks of rehabilitation, Anderson still was left with injuries that changed his life, Teicher said. His hands are completely numb. He can move his elbows only about 10 inches from the side of his body. He can't lift a glass with one hand. And, his strength is only 10 percent of normal.

Anderson, who was not a surgeon but a diagnostician, can no longer practice medicine because of the condition. And, he can no longer ski, play tennis, hike or sail as he once did. His life expectancy is normal, about another 26 years.

``That's a long time to be in this condition,'' Teicher said.

Teicher said the hospital was negligent on 11 points, including that doctors failed to diagnose Anderson's spinal cord failure and blood clot until a week after his surgery.

The lawsuit asks for $15.5 million for Anderson's pain and suffering, $3.6 million for his lost future earnings, $3.4 million for future medical costs and $5 million for his wife Robin D. Anderson's loss of companionship.
Edition: SUNRISE
Section: LOCAL STORIES
Page: E01
Record Number: 9805050268
Copyright (c) 1998 Oregonian Publishing Co.       


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