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Kidney Donor Fatalities

Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 11:30AM

Family members are often happy to donate a kidney to a loved one. In 2011, Florinda Gotcher, age 41 and the mother of four, was overwhelmed and delighted at the opportunity to save her brother's life. Statistically, kidney donor surgery is considered to be very safe. Unfortunately, due to the misuse of a surgical clip, Florinda Gotcher died from a massive and sudden bleed thirty minutes after what had initially appeared to be successful surgery.  Alarmingly, it is estimated that over 200,000 deaths occur in the United States each year due to medical malpractice.

Although considered safe to use in many types of surgeries, the danger of using surgical clips in laparoscopic kidney donor surgeries had been documented as far back as 2004. The clips would ultimately be held responsible for 5 deaths and at least 12 injuries. Transplant surgeons noted the clip had a tendency to become dislodged.  In response, doctors sent letters to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and published articles in medical journals. This literature alerted others about the dangers of using the clips during surgery. In 2006, Telefax, the manufacturer of the clips, began to send warning letters alerting hospitals about the lack of safety involving the use of these clips in laparoscopic kidney donor surgeries. Teleflex also put a warning symbol on packaging advising doctors to read the revised instructions.

Officials at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, the hospital where Gotcher had her surgery, acknowledged that they received the warning letters in 2006, but that they had not been purchasing these clips at the time. The letters were long forgotten by the time they began to purchase the clips years later. This is a typical scenario that sets the stage for a dangerous medical malpractice error: a manufacturer issues warnings and new instructions about a medical device, only for it to get lost in the vast amount of paperwork hospitals deal with daily. Also, surgeons who have been using a certain device for years may not realize instructions have been updated, so they fail to reread them.

After Gotcher's death, the FDA issued a safety notification reminding surgeons that the clips are contraindicated for kidney donor surgeries. The hospital settled a lawsuit filed by Gotcher's family for an unspecified sum, and took corrective action by hiring an outside company to implement better tracking of recalls and warnings.

No matter how safe a medical procedure is reputed to be, there is always the possibility things will not go as planned. Unfortunately, as in this case, medical errors occur that are completely avoidable.  


The law firm of Seitz and Tresher represents the unfortunate victims of medical negligence, wrongful death, personal injury, and product liability. Over the past 20 years, our Daytona Beach attorneys have built a reputation for aggressive legal representation in the Daytona Beach and Central Florida area.  If the unthinkable occurs, we would be honored to help you.  



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