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Coughing Fit During Cataract Surgery Costs Patient Her Vision in 1 Eye; Docs Shell Out $1.35M

At issue: whether the coughing started before or during the case.

Published: October 31, 2017

COSTLY COUGH A patient who claims she began to cough uncontrollably during cataract surgery developed a choroidal hemorrhage.

A 77-year-old woman's coughing fit during cataract surgery has cost her the vision in one eye and cost her ophthalmologist and anesthesiologist a combined $1.35 million.

The parties reached a settlement after the patient, Peggy Nelson, sued ophthalmologist Ronald Klug, MD, of Ophthalmic Physicians of Monmouth in Homdel, N.J., and anesthesiologist Andrea Engel, MD, for malpractice, according to Ms. Nelson's attorney, Daryl Zaslow of Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy in Edison, N.J.

Ms. Nelson claims that she was coughing violently before the 2012 procedure began, and that Dr. Klug should never have started the surgery. Drs. Klug and Engel maintain that Ms. Nelson's coughing was mild and under control before the procedure began. They say she didn't begin coughing uncontrollably until after her lens capsule had been removed, and that stopping then would have been too risky.

The surgery was ultimately aborted before an IOL could be placed, after Ms. Nelson suffered a choroidal hemorrhage. Ms. Nelson had several additional procedures with various specialists, but never recovered her lost vision.

Citing a confidentiality agreement in the settlement, Mr. Zaslow declined further comment.

Dr. Klug did not respond to requests for comment. Dr. Engel is retired and could not be reached for comment.

Jim Burger

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