Man's Estate Wins $1.5M for Botched Surgery

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 By FRANK DONNELLY ADVANCE STAFF WRITER

Removing his bladder and prostate were supposed to help cure a Meiers Corners man of cancer.

As it turned out, the tumor already had been eliminated and complications from the bladder operation in September 2000 killed Barry Brenowitz four months later at age 62.

A Staten Island jury has awarded Brenowitz's estate $1.5 million, after finding a Long Island physician liable for Brenowitz's death.

The panel determined that Dr. Joph Steckel departed from accepted medical standards by removing Brenowtiz's bladder without first performing a followup biopsy after the patient's original biopsy in June 2000, said the lawyer for the decedent's family.

The tumor had been excised in the first procedure, said attorney Pasquale V. Vairo of Manhattan.

The jury also said Steckel prematurely released Brenowitz from North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, despite the patient's complaints of pain and a leakage of urine into his stomach.

"It was an excruciating and horrible death," Vairo said, adding that Brenowitz suffered from nausea, vomiting and a urinary-tract infection and underwent another operation before he died. "It was very painful [for him] to eat and drink. It was devastating to his family."

Brenowitz's family declined comment.

Steckel and his lawyer, Kevin M. Ryan of Manhattan, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

They are expected to appeal the verdict.

Vairo said Brenowitz ran a hot-dog distribution business in Westchester County.

According to the lawyer, Brenowitz underwent an extensive biopsy by another physician in June 2000 to try to remove bladder tumors. In such a procedure, all the cancerous tissue is eradicated in less than 20 percent of cases, said Vairo.

Brenowitz subsequently was treated by Steckel, who recommended removal of his bladder and prostate, despite evidence that the tumors had been removed completely in the June biopsy, said court papers. The doctor said the bladder needed to be taken out because the tumor was muscle-invasive and there was a risk of cancer recurrence, said Vairo.

Steckel operated without performing a followup biopsy or advising Brenowitz of other possible options, said court papers.

After the operation, urine collected in Brenowitz's stomach and he became ill, court papers said.

"Urine leaking into the abdomen is a very dangerous situation," Vairo said.

Steckel discharged the patient from North Shore University Hospital, in Manhasset, on Nov. 17, 2000, to Cloves Lakes Nursing Home in Castleton Corners. Within 24 hours, the patient was admitted to Staten Island University Hospital with a kidney and urinary-tract infection, said Vairo.

Brenowitz died Jan. 20, 2001, of complications from the September 2000 surgery, the plaintiffs allege.

In the interim, he underwent a second operation to try to correct the problems brought on by the bladder-removal surgery, said court papers.

A six-person jury in state Supreme Court's Stapleton home port annex unanimously held Steckel liable last week after an 11-day trial, said Vairo. Jurors awarded the estate $1.5 million for the past pain and suffering and $20,000 for funeral expenses, the lawyer said.

In its findings, the panel also found that a reasonable person in Brenowitz's situation would not have consented to the operation had he been given appropriate information, Vairo said.