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Lawsuit: Colon tear went unnoticed by hospital for four days

A Baltimore woman filed has filed suit against Harbor Hospital, alleging she suffered a perforation to her colon that when undetected by doctors for four days following a colonoscopy.

Hazel L. Peterson underwent the procedure Sept. 9, 2011 and initially received treatment for diverticulosis, according to the complaint filed Thursday in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Peterson was discharged but returned to the emergency room later that day with complaints of severe abdominal pain, according to the complaint. Consulting specialists reached differing diagnoses, including colon cancer, infection and a hematoma.

Alan J. Belsky, Peterson’s attorney, said records from the hospital show multiple specialists evaluating his client but that doctors went in “with blinders on” and performed evaluations based on their specialty rather than taking a global view of the patient. More communication may have helped, he said.

“It was an unfortunate series of circumstances,” Belsky, of Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz LLC in Baltimore said.

Peterson’s condition deteriorated until an exploratory surgery Sept. 13 determined she had a large perforation to her colon, which was repaired, according to the complaint.

Perforations are fairly common, according to Belsky, and dealing with them promptly is key. By the time Peterson was diagnosed, she needed surgery but was unstable.

During her recovery, Peterson suffered complications from the surgery and was hospitalized for a total of 30 days before being transferred to a nursing facility where she remained for an extended period, according to the complaint.

“She never fully recovered from the various complications,” Belsky said.

The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of the doctor who performed the initial colonoscopy and the hospital for failing to identify and correct the complications before they became life-threatening.

The case is Hazel L. Peterson v. Richard A. Baum et al., 24C15005218.