Tripler Hospital Settles Malpractice Lawsuit for $9.5M After Army Wife’s Botched Surgeries Led to Death

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January 23, 2024
Tripler Army Medical Center

The U.S. government will pay $9.5 million to a military family to settle a medical malpractice judgment for a “botched gastric bypass surgery” in 2020.

In November 2020, Julie Bond, a 31-year-old Army wife, underwent a laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure at Tripler Army Medical Center after being referred to the hospital’s bariatric surgery program by her primary care physician at Schofield. She had given birth to a baby earlier that year and was having trouble losing and keeping off the weight she had gained during her pregnancy.

“(Bond) was a bold, vibrant, caring, loving, loud woman that loved deeply,” Beth Anderson, Bond’s mother, said Friday at a news conference as she spoke on Zoom from the mainland with Bond’s husband, Donald. “What happened to her should not have happened.”

After cutting apart her small intestines, as routine during the procedure, Tripler surgeons reattached Bond’s small intestine backward, causing a hernia that necessitated emergency surgery three days later.

During her emergency surgery, anesthetists damaged Bond’s lungs, and she developed blood clots. On the day that she would have needed a machine to remove the clots, the machine at Tripler’s facility was broken. While The Queen’s Medical Center was willing to accept Bond and remove the clots, her doctors chose to instead administer a clot-busting medication called tPA — which would cause micro- hemorrhages throughout her brain.

The emergency surgery would leave Bond in a coma, and when she awoke from the coma, she was a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic — without the ability to talk, breathe, eat or move on her own — and experienced “locked in” syndrome, as she was conscious of everything going on around her.

“She could only blink and cry and depend on machines for her life’s functions,” said Loretta Sheehan, a partner at Davis Levin Livingston and one of the attorneys who represented Bond’s estate, at the news conference. “Because of Tripler’s negligence, Donald has lost his wife, three small children have lost their mother and Beth has lost a daughter. This is a terrible tragedy that never, ever should have happened.”

Bond died from sepsis on Dec. 16, 2020, approximately a month and a half after her gastric bypass procedure.

A spokesperson for Tripler declined to comment on the case, deferring questions to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The case is the latest in a series of malpractice lawsuits against Tripler since 1997. In 2023 the U.S. government awarded $29.5 million to a local military family for an incident involving their then-month-old daughter that led to her losing most of her intestines. In 2022 the government paid a $15 million settlement for a baby who suffered brain damage after a delayed cesarean section in 2018.

“I pray that those located on-island that are looking at going into some program at Tripler thinks twice about it, or they see this and we can let them know that there is a track record of people being taken from their families,” Donald Bond said at the news conference. “The hardest thing that I’ve ever had to see was (Julie) losing every bit of control that she had and having her rely on the trust that she’d placed in a doctor and to have that trust betrayed.”

In 2015, Davis Levin Livingston sued Tripler for a similar bariatric surgery performed on 32-year-old Navy wife Christina Mettias. Mettias did not qualify for the procedure, but was advised by Tripler’s bariatric surgery program that the procedure would help her lose and keep off her weight. Her surgery resulted in “leaks, infections, internal bleeding, strictures, multiple repair surgeries, endoscopies, widespread scar tissue, a life of gut pain and unrelenting vomiting,” according to a news release.

“I would hope that the bariatric clinic at Tripler has looked long and hard at their programs, that they’re not just letting anybody and everyone who wants to have this procedure done have it done,” Anderson said. “There should have been safeguards in place to protect Julie. She went off what she was told from the doctors, like we all do and we trust.”

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