A New Mexico ophthalmologist is facing a civil suit which alleges that one of his patients, one Martha Cardon aged 72, died after her cataract surgery in July, 2004. The suit claims that Cardon was given inadequate monitoring in Dr. Donald Ham’s practice known as Alamogordo Eye Clinic Inc., and that nobody was present with training in how to resuscitate a patient. The person in charge of monitoring Cardon was an 18-year-old girl with no certification or formal training, just some on-the-job training.

Dr. Ham admitted in his deposition that the discharge summary in Cardon’s file was inaccurate, and that his employees gave inaccurate information to Cardon’s daughter, who was in the waiting room. Cardon was taken in an ambulance from the eye clinic, with a worsening medical status, but nobody told her daughter.

During her cataract surgery, Cardon moved around and after 10 minutes, sat up. She was breathing heavily and had high blood pressure. When she was placed in a chair, she slumped down and lost consciousness, as well as bladder control. To help her with breathing, Dr. Ham tried to insert a breathing tube, but failed. He had not intubated a patient for about 15 years. Cardon did not regain consciousness and later died from brain damage.

The wrongful death suit claims that Alamogordo Eye Clinic breached the standards of care laid down by the American Association of Ophthalmologists in their Preferred Practice Pattern Guidelines for cataract surgery. There was no anesthesiologist available during surgery and no drugs were used to treat Cardon’s condition. Further, there was no properly-trained staff person to monitor Cardon, and Dr. Ham failed to properly assess her health before the cataract surgery. He is charged with medical negligence and the suit is being heard this week.

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