Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Nevada medical authorities will consider suspending the license of a Las Vegas surgeon accused of major errors that preceded the deaths of two patients and resulted in severe complications for three others.
The Nevada State Osteopathic Medicine Board filed five complaints March 4 against Dr. Ming-Wei “Daniel” Wu, alleging multiple counts of dangerous conduct, most of them occurring at Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center.
The board will consider the suspension at an emergency meeting Wednesday.
Wu has been licensed in Nevada since 2005. He received his training at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif. He did not return calls for comment.
The incidents in the complaints date to 2006 and include one in which Wu allegedly ruptured a patient’s aorta during a laparoscopic procedure, and another in which he erroneously took out the ureter and part of a kidney during a procedure for the gallbladder.
“There’s a pattern of abuse here,” said Dianna Hegeduis, the senior deputy attorney general who works with the osteopathic board. “If you look at one case alone, maybe it doesn’t rise to the level of a summary suspension. But if you look at the pattern, it’s detrimental to the public.”
Maria Nutile, the surgeon’s attorney, said she is shocked the board is seeking an immediate suspension. If the cases presented such an emergency, why did it take so many years to address them? she said.
The osteopathic board was aware of the incidents, Nutile said, because some of them resulted in Wu being suspended by a local hospital, which he reported to the board.
“Dr. Wu has gone through extensive retraining and proctoring and, as he would say, is a ‘new man,’” Nutile said.
The osteopathic board has been criticized for its spotty disciplinary record. Nevada has about 750 licensed osteopathic physicians — they’re like medical doctors, but take a more holistic approach to medicine. Just one was disciplined by the board in 2006 and 2007 combined.
A surgeon who reviewed the complaints said they reveal an astounding lack of competence. “I’m surprised and astonished by the mistakes he’s making at this stage of his career,” the surgeon said of Wu.
The most recent complaint involved a female patient, K.O., who was admitted to Desert View Regional Hospital in Pahrump on Dec. 28 with rectal bleeding. Wu performed a colonoscopy for which he noted a “fungating mass,” possibly a cancer. He said the patient “tolerated the procedure well.”
According to the complaint, Wu had torn the patient’s rectum in the procedure. Furthermore, the pathology reports and inspections of the colon, which had to be removed, showed no fungating mass. The misdiagnosis alone amounts to unprofessional conduct, the complaint said.
In another incident, a patient, N.C., was admitted to Desert Springs on March 12, 2006, with appendicitis. During the laparoscopic operation, the complaint alleges, Wu ruptured the patient’s aorta and perforated her small intestine.
Another complaint accuses Wu of operating on a 67-year-old woman, J.D., on April 6, 2007, at Desert Springs without a physical examination. Wu also failed to obtain the patient’s consent or administer antibiotics after the operation, the complaint said.
Records show that the patient died at the hospital, though the complaint does not claim Wu was responsible.
Three weeks after that case, Wu allegedly displayed gross negligence during a surgery in which he removed the stomach of a male patient, A.T., who had no previous medical problems. Wu’s stitching failed, which contributed to sepsis and eventually the patient’s death, the complaint said.