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PA Superior Court Denies Plastic Surgeon’s Appeal Over Liposuction Death

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A panel of three PA Superior Court judges has denied the appeal of a plastic surgeon who was found liable by a jury for more than $20 million after botching the liposuction operation of 18-year-old Amy Fledderman, a Penn State freshman who died from complications after the operation.

The judges ruled

…that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas did not err on multiple fronts, as challenged on appeal by Richard P. Glunk, a King of Prussia plastic surgeon whose liability included $15 million in punitive damages after a five-week trial in 2008.

Fledderman, of Newtown Square, died on May 25, 2001, two days after she suffered complications during surgery at Glunk’s office to remove fat from her stomach and chin.

The appeals court ruled that the jury had been correct in awarding $2 million in damages to Fledderman’s mother, Colleen, for the emotional distress of standing by helpless as Glunk refused to send her daughter to a hospital over a period of 2 ½ hours. –Philadelphia Inquirer

According to the judges, Dr. Glunk was remiss in ignoring Fledderman’s medical emergency as well as her mother’s entreaties that Fledderman be taken to a hospital, and $15 million in punitive damages was not excessive.

While more than 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors, it’s not often that a medical professional so blatantly denies a patient the care she needs after committing a life-threatening error. As we continue to reform our health care system, we need to make sure more checks and balances are instated to prevent medical errors in the first place. Finding ways to limit patients’ rights in the face of devastating events like these is not the answer.