Wrongful death claim filed against Oklahoma City surgeon
BY JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS Associated Press
Friday, February 13, 2009
2/13/09 at 12:12 PM
Russian teen's father: Hospital experimented
Boy, 16, dies after charitable surgery
A wrongful death complaint has been filed against an Oklahoma City surgeon who made international headlines after performing a risky operation in 2006 that left a young Russian boy brain dead.
Attorneys for the boy's father, Sabit Kurbanov, filed the complaint Tuesday against Paul Christopher Francel in Oklahoma County District Court, records show. It asserts that the care 16-year-old David Kurbanov received from Francel "was below acceptable medical standards," said Kelly Bishop, an attorney for the family.
Francel has already agreed not to practice medicine while under investigation by state medical officials.
Officials at the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision will not say if their investigation, which could take several months, stems from the Russian boy's death or other matters.
Additionally, Francel has been named as a defendant in at least a dozen civil lawsuits claiming medical negligence since June 2007, court records show. Six of those claims were filed in the past three weeks.
David McPhail, an attorney for Francel, said he could not comment on pending litigation and that he has ordered his client not to discuss any of the cases.
Bishop said although he didn't know the details of the other claims against Francel, "it is a bit unusual to have so many cases filed against one doctor by good lawyers."
"You have to look at each case on its merits, but it sure makes you scratch your head when there are all these other claims out there," he said.
After David became brain dead several weeks after the operation, Sabit charged that Francel and St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City were more interested in promoting themselves than properly caring for his son, allegations they denied. Francel had performed the risky — and highly publicized — operation for free.
Before they came to the U.S., doctors in Moscow had discovered a tumor that had wrapped around David's brain stem, crowding the portion that controls involuntary body functions such as balance, swallowing and appetite.
Surgeries like David's have a high chance of complications during recovery, but on the day of the October 2006 surgery, doctors told David he'd see his father in a few hours. And that night, the local news ran a feature story on the operation and said David could be going home in three days.
Francel was no stranger to the area media, and had appeared on Oklahoma City news shows a number of times.
In the weeks following the operation, Francel said David was able to breathe on his own for short periods and follow rudimentary commands, but eventually succumbed to infections he had been battling since before the operation.
The boy slipped into a coma and was declared brain dead. He died in June 2007.
Why David never recovered is unclear. Francel told the AP in a 2007 interview that the boy was in a weakened state before the surgery, and that the boy's father was frustrated with his son's condition and removed him from the case.
"I did everything that could possibly be done, and so did the team there," Francel said in 2007. "In neurosurgery, if you have a tumor in your brain stem, it's almost a death sentence."