Widow Awarded $13M in Husband’s Post-op Death
By Lindsay Kalter, Boston Herald, September 5, 2014
‘ANYONE’S WORST NIGHTMARE’: Eric Price, a 38-year-old father of two, died following a tonsillectomy and other throat surgeries
A Boston widow says she is finally emerging from a decadelong nightmare that began with the shocking and untimely death of her husband after what should have been routine tonsil surgery and culminated this week in a $13 million legal victory against his surgeon.
“It’s anyone’s worst nightmare. I can’t tell you how horrific this has been,” Cynthia Price-Brown said.
See related medical malpractice trial report for this lawsuit:
$13 Million Verdict: 38-year-old Man Dies from Hemorrhage following Tonsillectomy at South Shore Hospital
In 2004, Eric Price—a 38-year-old father of two living in Hull and working his dream job at Merrill Lynch—had a tonsillectomy performed by Dr. Peter Ambrus at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, which Ambrus suggested would correct a mild case of sleep apnea.
Two days later, his throat began bleeding uncontrollably, and he died within minutes, Price-Brown said.
“I saw him run into the bathroom and I knew something was wrong right away,” Price-Brown said. “Maybe four to six minutes later my husband bled to death in my arms.”
She remembers her husband as someone who looked forward to each day.
“He was the kind of guy who used to wake up every morning smiling or dancing. I had never met anyone like that,” she said.
See updated news related to this article:
South Shore Surgeon Involved in $13M Lawsuit Resigns
The malpractice suit was filed in 2007 and Price-Brown, who was represented by the Boston law firm of Lubin & Meyer, won a $13 million verdict Wednesday, with an agreement that only requires a $1 million payout covered by Ambrus’ insurance. But Price-Brown said she would have been fine “walking out of there with nothing.”
“I feel like I finally have justice for Eric,” she said.
Ambrus performed four throat surgeries on Price: a tonsillectomy, a turbinate reduction and a palate reduction, and corrected Price’s deviated septum, according to Price-Brown’s attorney, Robert M. Higgins of Lubin & Meyer.
The surgery was ill-advised, Higgins said, given that Price’s sleep apnea was so mild.
But Ambrus’ attorney, William J. Dailey III of Sloane & Walsh, said heavy bleeding is a “known complication of tonsillectomies” and that death is an unlikely but possible risk in any such surgery.
“Dr. Ambrus feels terrible that one of his patients had a bad outcome, and his heart goes out to the family,” he said.
South Shore Hospital would only say, “We had absolutely no involvement in this case at all, other than being the location of the surgery.”
Tonsillectomies are riskier for adult patients given the larger size of the vessels and arteries compared to those in children, according to Dr. Nicolas BuSaba, a surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He also said it’s possible, but uncommon, that a surgery could cut too deeply into the muscle and weaken the wall of a major artery, creating a balloon that can burst days later.
“It is possible to go beyond the muscles and get to the muscles of the neck and to the major arteries,” BuSaba said.
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