United Kingdom

Florida doctor loses his license 'after letting new mother, 40, bleed to death'

A South Florida doctor with a history of disciplinary issues has been stripped of his medical license after being accused of letting a new mother bleed to death following a difficult delivery while he went home to change out of his blood-soaked scrubs and go to bed.

Dr Berto Lopez, 62, had been practicing obstetrics and gynecology in West Palm Beach for 38 years. His medical career, which was marred by the deaths of two new mothers and a botched pregnancy termination, came to an end earlier this month, when his license was revoked by the state. 

Administrative hearing judge Robert Cohen wrote in his opinion earlier this year that Lopez made multiple mistakes the day Onystei Castillo Lopez died in 2017, the most serious among them being leaving his patient in critical condition at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm Beach.

Dr Berto Lopez, 62 (left), has been stripped of his medical license over the 2017 death of his patient Onystei Castillo Lopez (right)

Castillo Lopez, pictured during her pregnancy with his husband and daughter, died from cardiac arrest just hours after welcoming a baby son

Lopez claimed that his scrubs were drenched in his patient's blood, and that he did not have clean clothes at the hospital, so he headed home, leaving a badly bleeding Castillo Lopez in the care of a nurse, an anesthesiologist and an ICU doctor available only via telemedicine, reported Miami Herald. 

The married mother-of-two, 40, who had only hours earlier delivered her long-hoped-for second child, a son, went into a cardiac arrest and died while Lopez was at home.  

Cohen concluded that Lopez's decision to leave the hospital to go home, clean up and go to sleep 'was where is failure to complete his care for his patient, led, ultimately to her untimely death.'

The judge added that had Lopez returned to the hospital after changing into a fresh set of scrubs, he might have saved his patient.

'Perhaps, his patient still would not have survived, but we will never know that because [Lopez] left her to go home,' Cohen wrote.

The judge recommended only a year-long license suspension and a ban on performing surgeries or delivering babies, to which Lopez had already voluntarily agreed, but the Florida Board of Medicine went beyond Cohen's recommendation and stripped Lopez of his license.

Castillo Lopez delivered her second child on January 25, 2017, but suffered tears in her cervix. Dr Lopez would later claim he could not see the cervix well because of the bleeding and bad lighting in the birthing suite 

Lopez's defense attorney said she plans to appeal the decision, arguing that the patient died because of a clotting issue that she claimed ICU doctors failed to diagnose after her client left for the night, reported The Palm Beach Post.

Castillo-Lopez went to Good Samaritan Medical Center on July 25, 2017, for a scheduled inducement and delivered a baby boy, Jorge Jason, just after 8am.

During the delivery, the mother suffered tears in her cervix, which needed to be repaired. Lopez would later claim that he could not see the cervix clearly because of the bleeding and a lighting problem.

Lopez, who has been practicing medicine for 38 years, performed a partial hysterectomy, but the patient continued bleeding 

Lopez did not transfer the patient from the delivery suite to an operating room, where different positioning and lighting might have made a difference, according to expert testimony. 

An administrative complaint alleged that Lopez made his second mistake of the day when, after finally taking an unresponsive Castillo-Lopez to an operating room, he performed a partial hysterectomy instead of a total hysterectomy, which would have been the more appropriate course of action, given the patient's condition. 

After the surgery, blood was seen gushing from the incision in Castillo-Lopez's abdomen. Instead of re-opening the incision, Lopez ordered a nurse to apply pressure dressings to stop the bleeding and ice the incision, according to the complaint.

Lopez left the hospital at 11.39pm to go home. He testified during a disciplinary hearing that the leg of his scrubs, his sock and shoe were saturated with blood and he could not find clean scrubs at the hospital.

Castillo-Lopez died at 3am the following morning, leaving behind her husband, their newborn son and seven-year-old daughter.

'When asked whether he felt at all responsible for O.C.’s death, Dr. Lopez placed the blame on the ICU staff and the hospital system,' Judge Cohen wrote.

While Lopez went home to change out of his blood-soaked scrubs and go to sleep, Castillo Lopez (right) bled out and died 

At the time of Castillo-Lopez's death, Lopez was under a settlement agreement with state health officials to not perform any surgeries without supervision, stemming from the April 2014 death of another patient who bled out after a C-section.

His record also includes a prior settlement agreement dated 2004 related to a pregnant woman whose baby died in utero, who who went to Lopez to have him remove the fetus. 

According to a complaint in that case, Lopez failed to remove all of the contents of the uterus, and a month later the patient ended up delivering the remains of her unborn baby, a girl, in the bathroom.    

Lopez did not admit wrongdoing but paid a fine and agreed to perform community service and take classes in medical record keeping.  

Castillo-Lopez's widowed husband filed a civil lawsuit against Lopez and reached a settlement with him in 2019, but had to go back to court when the physician failed to make monthly payments. 

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