Case involving surgical mistake settled

November 09, 1990|By David Michael Ettlin

A medical malpractice case stemming from the death of an elderly immigrant carpenter whose intestine was inadvertently sewn shut at University Hospital has been settled out of court for "a very substantial sum of money," the lawyer for the patient's family said yesterday.

The error in the 1984 operation was discovered during an autopsy at the hospital, but the surgeons involved -- including Dr. H. Harlan Stone, then chief of general surgery at University -- failed to cite it on the death certificate or inform the family of the cause of death.

The case came to light because of an anonymous letter sent 18 months later to the family of the 82-year-old patient, Theodore Kozowyj.

It was one of two cases involving Dr. Stone at University Hospital in which surgeons claimed that a patient had died of natural causes but studies by the state medical examiner's office determined that surgical mistakes were to blame.

The other patient, Margaret T. Lesch, 67, died when her jugular vein was cut during an operation.

Those cases and two other malpractice complaints lodged against Dr. Stone -- all in a nine-week period -- led to his resignation. His subsequent lawsuit against University Hospital, claiming he was denied due process in being forced to resign, was thrown out by a federal judge.

Mr. Kozowyj died Oct. 24, 1984. That was 10 days after the surgical team headed by Dr. Stone botched surgery for cancer of the colon by sewing his intestine shut.

The family of Mr. Kozowyj, a retired carpenter of Ukrainian birth, sued the University of Maryland Medical System Corp.; Dr. Stone; Dr. Frederick K. Toy and Dr. Walter Pegoli, residents who assisted in the operation; Dr. Thomas E. Hobbins, a Towson physician called in as a post-operative consultant; and Dr. Chen-Chih J. Sun, a hospital pathologist.

Marvin Ellin, the lawyer for the Kozowyj family, said part of the agreement was not to disclose the amount of the lump-sum settlement reached as the trial was to begin Monday in Baltimore's Circuit Court.

"At the last minute a very substantial sum of money was offered that the family accepted with great ambivalence because of the circumstances surrounding both the death of their father and the cover-up which they felt occurred when they were given an erroneous death certificate and were told that he died of natural causes," Mr. Ellin said.

Dr. Stone, now chief of surgery at Fairview Hospital in Cleveland, declined to talk to a reporter yesterday.

Mr. Ellin said the settlement is to be shared by Mr. Kozowyj's four children: Mary Kozowyj of Minnesota and Nadja Hardy, Waldomiro "Ron" Kozowyj and Jaroslau Kozowyj, all of the Baltimore area.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.