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Doctor, hospital deny sponge gaffe

Their attorneys blame the Zephyrhills man who found the sponge in his chest after his surgery.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 2000


DADE CITY -- Attorneys for a doctor and hospital accused of sending a Zephyrhills man home with a surgical sponge in his chest say the mishap -- if it happened -- wasn't their clients' fault.

The attorneys representing the East Pasco Medical Center and Dr. Paul Citrin, who admits performing the exploratory surgery, say that injuries suffered by 67-year-old patient Edmund Tatro may have been caused by his own negligence.

In a suit filed in April, Tatro said that a sponge was left inside him during an operation to examine a cancerous nodule on his left lung.

The sponge, which had to be surgically removed when it was found two months later, caused a deep bone infection, according to Tatro's attorney, Lex Taylor.

The sponge, according to the suit, had to be cut out of Tatro's body, and the wound required months of treatment. Tatro lost bone that was damaged by the infection. Tatro's cancer treatments were delayed for a month, and he lost some use of his left hand, Taylor said.

In their response, recorded in Circuit Court this week, attorneys representing Citrin and the hospital tried to deflect the blame.

Attorney Mason Grower, representing the East Pasco Medical Center in Zephyrhills, denied responsibility and blamed Tatro's injuries either on Tatro or "other persons or occurrences."

C. Howard Hunter, representing Citrin, did the same.

"Plaintiff's own negligent acts or omissions caused or contributed to such injury or damages suffers, and recovery must therefore be denied or reduced," his reply stated.

Taylor said he wasn't surprised by the defense tactic. It's common in the early stages of a lawsuit to propose every possible defense angle, because adding a new defense after the initial response is difficult, he said.

Taylor said there is nothing to indicate that his client caused the injuries to himself.

The hospital denies knowing about the sponge incident, and Citrin's response states he knew of "certain findings" as alleged, but knew nothing more.

Taylor said the bill just for repairing damage caused by the sponge totals $98,000 so far, with more treatment needed.

Tatro is demanding a jury trial.

Grower and Hunter could not be reached for comment Thursday and Friday.

Hospital spokesman Jerry Sterner said Grower told him a settlement may be near but said Grower preferred not to comment on pending litigation.

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