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Abandoned Surgical Patient Speaks Out

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A 32-year-old Pennsylvania woman who was left on an operating table in a New York hospital last month is speaking out about her ordeal. Jennifer Ronca, the mother of three children, had her head shaved and was under anesthesia, but awoke to find that her surgery had not been performed.

Ronca was told that her surgery had to be postponed because her doctor had a "family emergency." A second surgeon refused to conduct the operation because Ronca was not his patient. As it turns out, Ronca’s original surgeon did not have a family emergency after all. The New York Health Department is investigating the matter.

Ronca underwent the surgery three weeks later than planned, but her feeling of betrayal still lingers.

Patient abandonment is a serious problem than can have dire consequences. Abandonment is a fundamental breach of the doctor-patient (or nurse-patient) relationship and can form the basis for allegations of medical malpractice. It can occur at almost any stage of evaluation and treatment, from the moment a patient enters the hospital doors to weeks after care has been rendered.

In many cases, the result of abandonment can be much more severe than inconvenience or a sense of annoyance. Serious injury or death can result.