Prescription for Failure: Malpractice victims angered by inability to sue due to Florida law

(WSVN) - When you have surgery, you put your life in your doctor’s hands. If something goes wrong, you probably think you can take your case to court. But in Florida, that can be a prescription for failure. 7’s Brandon Beyer has our story.

When Amber Auckerman gets dressed, she’s glad her padded bra helps hide her breasts which are two different sizes.

Amber Auckerman: “I received the wrong size implant, and I’m still left disfigured and uncomfortable.”

This picture, taken before the surgery, shows how her breasts were naturally uneven. She asked her surgeon, Dr. Osak Omulepu, to make them match. This is what they look like today.

Amber Auckerman: “This doctor didn’t do his job.”

Rick Martinez had liposuction around his middle. He thought the procedure, performed by Dr. Amaryllis Pascual, went well… until he got home.

Rick Martinez: “I just felt myself getting weaker and sicker to the point I’m not able to eat.”

Several days later, Rick went to the emergency room.

Rick Martinez: “What they found was that she perforated my intestines in two different locations, as well as my colon. It caused me to become septic.”

Rick says he spent 21 days in the hospital and had two surgeries to repair the damage.

Rick Martinez: “I’m one of the fortunate ones. I survived.”

Both Rick and Amber filed complaints against their surgeons with the Florida Department of Health.

Amber Auckerman: “They said it’s a ‘hurry up and wait’ game, that Dr. Omulepu has a lot of cases against him.”

Dr. Omulepu’s attorney said in an email that “there has been no finding that anything was done incorrectly” in Amber’s case. But the Department of Health is still investigating Amber’s case, and has complaints against Dr. Omulepu from other patients.

Amber decided to sue her doctor, but no attorney would take her case because Omulepu didn’t have malpractice insurance.

Amber Auckerman: “I thought I did all my research, but unfortunately not.”

Rick was able to hire an attorney and was given a million dollar judgment. But his doctor didn’t have malpractice insurance either, and eventually filed for bankruptcy.

Rick Martinez: “I cannot collect because she is protected through the bankruptcy court, and to find out that in the State of Florida, you can actually practice medicine without carrying malpractice insurance, I couldn’t believe it.”

Alan Goldfarb, attorney: “Our legislature decided years ago that doctors were not mandated to have medical malpractice insurance.”

Alan Goldfarb is a medical malpractice attorney. He says doctors without malpractice insurance will often try to hide their assets, so if they lose a case, they won’t have to pay.

Alan Goldfarb: “We’ve heard of offshore, Cayman Islands, put all your assets in your wife’s name, so a doctor does not have to have an asset in his name whatsoever, it could all be protected.”

Goldfarb says Florida patients are sometimes victimized twice — first by the doctor, and then by state law.

Alan Goldfarb: “They just don’t have any place to go to collect for their medical bills, their disrupt of life, their loss of income.”

Rick says he is scarred for life after his ordeal. He has written letters, and posted a petition on Org.com, urging the state to change the law.

Rick Martinez: “I will continue fighting until people’s lives are protected.”

Both doctors are scheduled to face the Florida Board of Medicine, Friday. They will find out then if the state will discipline them.

Reporting in Fort Lauderdale, Brandon Beyer, 7News.

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