Cruel joke: Veronica Valdez, 36, had her face decorated with stickers by her anesthesiologist to make it look like she has a mustache and teardrops while she was unconscious during surgery
A woman undergoing a minor surgery at a Southern California hospital was shocked to discover that her anesthesiologist decorated her face with stickers while she was unconscious and then had a nurse text her a photo of his handiwork.
According to a lawsuit filed by the patient, Veronica Valdez, during an operation on her finger at Torrance Memorial Medical Center in October 2011, Dr. Patrick Yang used stickers to give her a black mustache and teardrops under her left eye.
A nurse’s aide then used a cell phone to snap a picture of Valdez, 36, looking like ‘a male member of a street gang,’ according to the court filings cited by ABC7.
Miss Valdez worked at the hospital for 13 years before the surgery and was ‘friendly’ with the anesthesiologist and staff present in the operating room that day.
The hospital called the incident a breach of professionalism and said in a statement that it demonstrated poor judgment on the part of the doctor and the nurse’s aide borne out of their familiarity with the patient, according to the Los Angles Times
Dr Yang said in a deposition that he cut out and colored the stickers, and then placed them on Valdez’s face near the end of the hour-long procedure.
‘I thought she would think this is funny and she would appreciate it,’ he said.
The Daily Breeze reported that when Yang was asked if he was bored at the time, he responded that he simply thought that his then-colleague ‘would get a kick out of it.’
Nursing attendant Patricia Gomez took Valdez’s photo at Yang’s request. Gomez testified in her deposition that she didn’t email or post the photo anywhere, and deleted it after showing it to Valdez.
‘I felt violated. I was in shock,’ Valdez said in court documents.
Others testified in depositions about seeing a surgery photo of Valdez posted on Facebook. In court filings, lawyers for the hospital said there was no evidence the photo was published online.
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Medical facility: Miss Valdez went in for a minor procedure on her finger at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, where she herself had worked for 13 years before the 2011 incident
Hospital officials reported the incident to state regulators as a potential violation of medical privacy.
Dr Yang and other employees involved in the incident were briefly suspended, but ultimately allowed to keep their jobs.
Hospital employees were also given additional training on privacy in the aftermath of the incident.
Torrance has since put in place a zero-tolerance policy for any unauthorized photography, and staffers now must sign a confidentially agreement.
Prankster: Dr Patrick Yang, who was Valdez’s anesthesiologist, said during his deposition that he thought his patient would ‘get a kick out of’ the mustache and teardrops
Valdez’s civil suit is scheduled for trial in January. She’s seeking damages from the hospital, the anesthesiologist and his medical group for violation of privacy, infliction of emotional distress and other allegations.
Her attorney, Andrew Ryan, said Miss Valdez was forced to quit her job ordering and maintaining supplies for the hospital’s operating rooms because she was ‘ridiculed and humiliated while under anesthesia.’
Valdez’s lawsuit claims that there may also be a sexually suggestive photo of her taken during the procedure.
According to court filings, Miss Valdez’s neck was positioned while she under anesthesia ‘so that they could keep her mouth open in order to make a crude sexual joke.’
In response, Torrance Memorial said the allegations in Valdez’s lawsuit were ‘factually inaccurate, grossly exaggerated or fabricated.’ It will present a motion to dismiss the case in November.
In court filings, the hospital contends that Valdez is trying to ‘play litigation lottery’ against a ‘deep-pocket defendant.’
Ryan said that his client had had some disagreements with staffers in the operating room in the past, which may have led to the 2011 incident.