May 8, 2020

Lawsuit claims public health order prevented important surgery

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A Bernalillo County man filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the state after his scheduled surgery was cancelled in order to comply with one of the state’s COVID-19 public health orders. 

Edward Tsyitee, through his lawyer Blair Dunn, said he was scheduled for surgery to remove his gallbladder on April 13, but was denied by two different medical facilities because the state’s current public health order includes “Temporary Restrictions on Non-Essential Health Care Services, Procedures, and and Surgeries.”

In a sworn affidavit, Tsyitee recounted that in December 2018, during a visit to the emergency room, he was told he had gallstones and that a doctor advised him to schedule a surgery to remove his gallbladder. But days before his surgery, Tsyitee said his doctor called to tell him the surgery was postponed because of the state’s public health order. 

“Gallbladder surgery, while listed as an elective surgery, has become necessary for me to maintain my life and health,” Tsyitee wrote. “I am in pain, and suffering other medical issues due to the fact that I cannot have my gallbladder removed at this time.”

According to his affidavit, Tsyitee went to a second emergency medical center because he was suffering from “rectal bleeding” about 10 days after his surgery was cancelled. 

“I was concerned that I was suffering internal bleeding due to the gallbladder issues,” Tsyitee wrote. 

But testing showed there was no internal bleeding and doctors again sent him home. 

Along with the lawsuit seeking damages, Tsyitee also filed a request for a temporary restraining order to allow him to go in for surgery. 

A Department of Health spokesperson told NM Political Report that he department does not comment on pending litigation. 

A March 24 update to the state’s public health order specified that “non-essential” meant procedures that could be postponed for three months without putting a person in danger of further complications. 

The state’s public health order was amended on May 1 to allow for some non-essential procedures with the condition that medical centers follow current guidelines for limiting the spread of COVID-19.