Doctor could be disciplined in 3-year-old's death
A Colusa doctor faces possible discipline because of the death of a 3-year-old patient in 2011.
The California Medical Board requested that Dr. Lawrence M. Highman's license be revoked or suspended. Highman is accused by the Medical Board of engaging in repeated negligent acts contributing to the youth's death from complications following an emergency room surgery.
The surgery was performed by Highman at the Colusa Regional Medical Center, where he works as an on-call surgeon. He also is a general surgeon at Glenn Medical Center in Willows.
Highman was one in a number of parties named in a civil lawsuit that arose from the incident. It was settled and dismissed without prejudice last year.
The accusation before the Medical Board says that in the evening of April 22, 2011, the patient (referred to in the complaint as O.P.) was brought into the Colusa Medical Center emergency room after he fell from a tree house.
The patient suffered a cut to his right ankle and foot and was seen by an emergency room physician. That physician thought the wound was too complex for him to repair and called a nurse anesthetist and Highman.
Surgery was performed to close the cut on the patient's foot. During the operation, foreign matter made its way into the patient's lungs, but Highman was unaware of this fact, the complaint says. After the surgery, the anesthetist removed the breathing tube which caused the patient's oxygen levels to drop.
A breathing apparatus was used on the child unsuccessfully, and Highman performed CPR, causing a collapsed lung, the complaint says. Highman then inserted a right chest tube — used to drain fluids or other matter from the lungs — and reinserted the breathing tube, the complaint says. After he did so, the patient stopped breathing and died, the complaint says.
An autopsy determined that nut fragments that the patient had eaten earlier were the foreign matter in the child's lungs, which complicated the general anesthesia and insertion of the breathing tube into his windpipe.
According to the accusation, Highman committed a number of acts or omissions which "constitute(d) departures from the standard of practice." It alleges that Highman relied on the emergency room physician's description of the cut to in the patient's record, rather than his own independent observation.
The accusation also claims that there was no documented discussion between Highman and the nurse anesthetist regarding the patient's last food eaten.
The final accusation was that Highman's CPR efforts caused an iatrogenic (induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment) collapsed lung that should have been avoided. That subsequently required the chest tube placement by Highman.