But Irma had been meticulous with her daughter's medical documents. She'd kept the appointment card for their next visit, which wasn't until February 23.

Jurors awarded Irma $100,000 for economic loss, $400,000 for her daughter's pain and suffering, plus $7.5 million in punitive damages for Mercado's malpractice. "It's not covered by insurance," Judge Darrell Gavrin pointed out at trial. Gavrin has yet to make a final judgment on the total sum Mercado must pay.

It's unlikely that Mercado has to worry about a state sanction. Historically, the Department of Health has doled out punishment only once it recognizes a pattern of misbehavior or incompetence. (The department did not respond to interview requests.)

Ellen Weinstein
Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up.
Courtesy Paul Hayt
Claudialee Gomez-Nicanor wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up.

"There are many physicians who have been sued and lost a malpractice case and are still practicing," says a New York government official who works closely with the medical industry and was not authorized to publicly discuss the subject. "The Office of Professional Medical Conduct will take a look at trends, as opposed to an isolated incident."

Staten Island cosmetic surgeon Robert Cattani, for instance, tallied 40 malpractice suits before the state revoked his medical license in September 2012. Another plastic surgeon in Brooklyn didn't lose his license until regulators found negligence on seven occasions.

Between 2001 and 2011, according to a USA Today investigation, of about 400 doctors who had their clinical privileges reduced or revoked by a medical institution in New York, more than half had never been assessed a single state penalty.

Mercado still runs a private practice. She still serves on the SUNY faculty. So it's understandable that she's reluctant to discuss the case. She stands at the door that separates the waiting area from the treatment rooms, holding it halfway closed like a reluctant homeowner talking to a salesman.

"I did my best for this patient," Mercado says. "I know in my heart that I did everything for this patient."

She declines to go into specifics or answer any questions.

"I'll just stay silent on this, because God knows best," she says, pointing to the ceiling with both index fingers.

Then she closes the door. Her afternoon schedule is full. There's a roomful of patients awaiting treatment.

asamaha@villagevoice.com

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14 comments
jamestovet
jamestovet

I feel terrible after reading this. Mishaps occur often but doctors should be more careful. This sort of misdiagnosis is not acceptable. After all the research and treatments found for diabetes, if someone dies because of misdiagnosis, it can be very enraging.


mrf948
mrf948

Like rty9, I am a diabetic. I am seen for primary care in a federally supported community clinic of a major academic medical center, Montefiore, in the Bronx, where I live.  Most of the patients, including myself, are low income, many on medicaid or uninsured. I have also been seen by a private endocrinologist. In both settings, everyone who is diabetic or pre-diabetic has a glucose finger stick test each time he/she comes in. It does not need to be done by a doctor, or sent to a lab. The whole thing takes a minute and results are available immediately. Even if this doctor was so out of it that she thought this lovely child had type II diabetes, if she had been doing this simple finger stick she would have known her glucose was through the roof.  This negligence of the basics of endocrinology amounts to homicide. Why is she still on the faculty of SUNY??? This was truly tragic, and the fact that she continues in practice with the ability to kill another child is terrifying. 

rtyr9
rtyr9

This gross negligence of Mercado and Cabatic  was the direct cause of this child's death.  There is NO EXCUSE for such a misdiagnosis.  EVERY glucose meter on the market in the US--including the store-brand ones for $10 for the meter, and including the teeny one which is the cap for the vial of testing strips--is accurate enough to catch this! There was NO need to do a venous draw and wait 2 weeks for a lab turnaround; why did nether "doctor" have a fingerstick glucose meter there in the office, and why did neither tell the mom to go to a chain drugstore and get one? Or better, write the prescription for the meter and strips which IS COVERED by Medicaid in every state.  Even Type 2 diabetes needs to be monitored daily! If the "doctor" was ordering lab tests, why did neither order  a C-peptide measurement, which is THE definitive factor for Type 1 diabetes.

  These two are not the only ignoramuses with medical licenses who endanger the lives of diabetic patients everyday. Earlier this year I was admitted to a small-city facility of the largest and oldest HMO in the country after going to the ER (I called the advice nurse first before going to the ER). The hospitalist was a DO (osteopath) who was too lazy to contact either my primary care provider (an MD) or diabetes care manager (an NP-CDE), or even look at the settings and history on my insulin pump! I had to call a family member to bring me my meter and insulin so I could take care of myself; I literally walked off the floor and out of the hospital and walked home when the hospital administration did not replace  the ignorant DO with someone competent and accountable.  I have also complained to the state boards, and to the regulating agency, but because I took my care into my own hands, and left the hospital before I was irreparably damaged, it was ruled that I had suffered no harm. Interesting that the HMO refunded my ER co-pay and did not bill me anything for the inpatient time!

  I've been diabetic for nearly 50 years, so I have knowledge about diabetes that neither  Claudialee nor her overwhelmed mother had. THEY were not the ones expected to be knowledgable about this condition. Instead, the persons who SHOULD have had at least the knowledge of adult  Type 1 patients exhibited less expertise than the writers of popular  magazine ads for  diabetes testing supplies and accessories. Irma trusted these women with her daughter's life, and their willful neglect killed her child. I am so shocked and disgusted with these murderers and with the regulatory agencies which supposedly protect the public I cannot find adequate words

Dear Irma, I am so sorry for the loss of your precious little girl. I pray that her death was not in vain, and that this reporting to the public will result in action to prevent another such tragedy from happening to another family..

newlight51
newlight51

I am glad the mom won the case and the doctor admitted fault. At least she will not be putting more people at risk. When you see a doctor's office too dirty or messy, friends and family helping out, it means they are providing sub-standard care and uneducated. You need real nurses and trained medical personnel. Its best to question our doctors and look up things to make sure they are doing at least some of the right tests. Some of you may not realize Obamacare could set in motion sub-standard care like this. Be warned. National health care is good, but this Obamacare is too large and needs to be cut back and made voluntary.

deidrem
deidrem

Oh, and I hope someone checks all those other children she says she's diagnosed with type II diabetes. Some of them may also have type I diabetes, and they may be in danger, too. This woman sounds like her medical judgement is being clouded by her assumptions about weight.

deidrem
deidrem

This is just unconscionable. I'm not a fan of the overuse of lawsuits, but in this case, I hope the mom sues the hell out of that doctor. This is so incompetent that it borders on murder. That poor little girl. She had her whole life ahead of her.

DoctorsKill
DoctorsKill

A fasting insulin test is what $20, medical boards need to be more proactive at stripping licenses.

morethancereal
morethancereal

@ScritchfieldRD horrible - I hate doctors that make assumptions instead of listening. You know my story...serious pet peeve of mine

FeedMeImCranky1
FeedMeImCranky1

@CurvyFitGirl it's terrible beyond words. brings up bigger issues of how class plays a huge role in your chances to get quality healthcare

deidrem
deidrem

@newlight51 Really? What mistaken assumptions are you basing that statement on? I've been living in Canada and the UK for the past ten years after living in the US for the first 33 years of my life, and the care is MORE, not less, professional than the care in the US. Doctors and insurance companies make less money, however.

 
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