Hawaii News

Doctor’s Poor Judgment Leads to Patient Death

A disturbing case of medical malpractice is being tried in a Hawaiian court after the death of a 73-year-old back surgery patient.  Arturo Iturralde was midway through back surgery under the care of surgeon Robert Ricketson when the doctor realized that he did not have the two titanium rods necessary for completion of the procedure.

Declining an offer from rod maker Medtronic Inc. to deliver the necessary materials in 90 minutes, Dr. Ricketson sawed the shaft off of an ordinary screwdriver and placed the screwdriver piece into the patients back in replacement of a rod. 

The screwdriver broke in Iturralde’s back within a week of the surgery, leaving him in need of three corrective surgeries and with severe health problems.  Over the next two years, the patient suffered from serious urinary tract complications, damaged nerves, the inability to walk and severe infection, which eventually led to his death in 2003. 

According to medical records, this is not the first instance of medical malpractice involving Dr. Robert Ricketson.  The doctor’s medical license was suspended in Oklahoma and revoked in Texas for drug use.  He has also been placed on probation by Hawaiian medical authorities for drug use.

In a file at Hilo Hospital, where Ricketson practices, he himself admitted to five other medical malpractice suits.  The doctor, who does not have malpractice insurance, will be representing himself in court.

In addition to medical malpractice charges, the victim’s sister is also seeking damages for the failure of Medtronic Inc. to deliver the proper number of titanium rods to the hospital.  Medtronic attorney Murray Levin has commented, “The rods were lost in the hospital,” adding that the screwdriver was not responsible for the death of Iturralde.  “He was a nice man.  He was also a very sick man,” added the attorney. 

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