Lawsuit: KU Health System doctor misdiagnosed patient, removed parts of organs

Patient claims hospital covered up mistake

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A patient has filed a lawsuit against The University of Kansas Health System claiming she was misdiagnosed and unnecessarily operated on. 

Wendy Ann Noon Berner claims she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer following a biopsy in 2015, according to the lawsuit.

Berner underwent surgery and had a portion of her pancreas and other organs removed. Following the surgery, Berner claims doctors told her she was cancer-free.

However, according to court documents, Berner learned months after the surgery she never had cancer. 

According to Berner's lawsuit, she became suspicious when doctors asked her to sign an affidavit stating, "the treatment she received from the surgeon and from all of the University of Kansas Hospital nurses, doctors, and employees was wonderful."

Berner later discovered a whistleblower's lawsuit filed against the hospital. 

In the lawsuit, Dr. Lowell Tilzer claims he became aware that, "the Chair of KUMC's/KU Hospital's Department of Pathology misdiagnosed a patient's tissue sample by concluding the patient had cancer. As a result of the misdiagnoses, the patient was erroneously informed that the patient had cancer, and the patient's essential body organ (or a substantial portion of the essential body organ) was removed at Hospital."

Berner realized she was the patient at the center of the whistleblower's lawsuit. 

Tilzer, a pathologist at the hospital at the time, claims Berner was never informed by hospital staff of the mistake.

According to Tilzer's lawsuit, he complained to hospital administrators about what happened. However, Tilzer said administrators refused to investigate the matter. Instead, Tilzer said the administrators threatened to fire him.

Berner's lawsuit claims further cover-up of her misdiagnosis persisted. 

"Defendants instead took multiple steps to conceal the misdiagnosis and the unnecessary surgery. After Plaintiff was discharged, the Chair (pathologist) added a mysterious “addendum” to Plaintiff’s original medical record in an effort to conceal the misdiagnosis. She did not stop there. She also lobbied for revisions to KU’s Quality Improvement documents in order to eliminate references to her “major misinterpretations” and the unnecessary surgery. Further, she instructed others to alter meeting minutes in order to eliminate references to the misdiagnosis and the need for a “root cause analysis.”"

Dennis McCullough, a spokesperson for the hospital, issued this statement:

“Ensuring the health and wellbeing of every patient at The University of Kansas Health System is our top priority. We need to be respectful of patient privacy and confidentiality, and because of that we are limited in what we can say on this matter. That said, we do believe that our physicians and staff acted appropriately and with the best interests of our patient in mind.” 

According to the lawsuit, Berner has complications from the surgery and will be on life-long medication.

Both Berner and Tilzer could not be reached for comment. 

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