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Man Sues Gastric Bypass Doctors

Sep 15, 2004 | Jeremy Martinez of Española struggled with obesity his entire adult life, so when the 27-year-old saw television commercials about a low-risk, weight-loss surgery from a California medical group last year, he seized the opportunity.

But despite its billing as a "low-risk" surgery, Martinez suffered serious complications from the gastric bypass procedure he had last year, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in state district court in Santa Fe. He developed an intestinal blockage that left him unable to keep food and most liquids down and that eventually required a second surgery to fix, the suit states.

Martinez is seeking unspecified monetary and punitive damages from the California doctors involved in the surgery and their practice, Laparoscopic Bariatric Specialists at Bellflower Medical Center in the Los Angeles area. The suit contends that they engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practices, that they were negligent and intentionally misrepresented the risks of the procedure and that they committed medical malpractice.

Also named in the lawsuit is Murray Ryan, an Española medical doctor who provided follow-up care to Martinez. The suit accuses Ryan of medical malpractice.

Contacted by telephone on Tuesday, Ryan declined to comment on the lawsuit. Messages left at Laparoscopic Bariatric Specialists Tuesday afternoon were not returned.

"Jeremy was extremely distraught about the effects of the surgery after it happened," said his attorney, who is representing Martinez and his family in the suit. "He was told that a lot of people have buyer's remorse."

Martinez, now 28, weighed about 330 pounds in September of 2003 when he underwent the surgery, which involved stapling most of his stomach pouch shut, his lawyer said. She said he felt betrayed that he had not been told that intestinal obstruction was a risk associated with the procedure.

Her client decided to pursue litigation because of the medical bills and lost income he and his family incurred during the ordeal and to let others know about his experience with the procedure.

According to the complaint, the California medical practice marketed its services to New Mexico consumers through television advertisements, seminars, mailings and through the Internet.

Martinez and his wife, Tammy, flew to California for the procedure on Sept. 8, 2003. He underwent the surgery on Sept. 10 and was discharged Sept. 13. Martinez was scheduled to return to the California medical facility days later for a follow-up visit and to have the staples removed, but returned to New Mexico before going back for his follow-up visit after being told that two of his children were sick, the suit states. Martinez followed up with his own physician.

According to the suit, the plaintiffs told Martinez that the surgery had gone great and that his symptoms were normal.

But in the ensuing days, the suit states, Martinez became more and more ill and frequently went to the Española emergency room and to Ryan.

It wasn't until he went to the emergency room in Santa Fe after passing out and having a seizure that he was diagnosed with an intestinal obstruction, the suit states. He then went to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque for treatment.

His lawyer said Martinez had to be hospitalized twice. She said he underwent a second surgery to reverse the gastric bypass in November of last year. But according to the suit, he continues to suffer from seizures and anxiety.

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