High Rate of Heart Surgery Fatality at Florida Hospital

At St. Mary’s Medical Center in Florida, Layla McCarthy had surgery to widen a narrowing in her aorta, which is the vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. After surgery, Layla stopped moving her legs; doctors could not explain why. Layla was a mere seven weeks old. The McCarthys had her transferred to another hospital. To date, Layla remains paraplegic.

Data shows St. Mary’s was extremely inexperienced at doing complex heart surgeries on newborns. At the end of 2013, the mortality rate for babies having heart surgery at St. Mary’s was three times the national average. At least eight babies have died since St. Mary’s began their pediatric open-heart surgery program in December 2011. Parents want to know why they were not warned that St. Mary’s was inexperienced at such risky and difficult operations.

St. Mary’s attempted to keep the death rate a secret. A Freedom of Information request with the Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration shows that from 2011 to 2013, St. Mary’s performed 48 open-heart surgeries on babies and children. That means the death rate for open-heart surgeries at St. Mary’s is 12.5%, which is three times more than the national average of 3.3%, as reported by the Society for Thoracic Surgeons. Studies show hospitals like St. Mary’s have a tendency to give the worst care to children and babies with heart defects because they get little practice. Practice is important as open-heart surgeries are complex. One review of St. Mary’s found the hospital did 23 heart surgeries in 2013. Nationally, 40% of pediatric heart surgery centers perform more than 250 cases a year.

Medical malpractice is a difficult area of law as it requires an understanding of both the legal practice and the mechanics of medicine. Abraham Watkins offers a free consultation to anyone wishing to pursue such claims.