Town Square

Menlo Park woman wins $22M malpractice verdict against PA Medical Foundation

Original post made on Mar 21, 2012

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation was hit with one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in Santa Clara County history Monday, March 19, after a Menlo Park woman suffered paralysis while undergoing treatment for migraines.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 10:56 AM


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Please identify the neurologists/neurosurgeons involved in this case.

Posted by Sue, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Another vote for the comment above - please identify the doctor that is responsible for this woman's condition and that who performed this dangerous procedure without giving this woman informed consent before this procedure was done on her.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Mar 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I know this woman's family and what she has been through. What a terrible thing that happened to her. I am glad the Foundation will be held responsible, this poor woman will pay for that mistake for the rest of her life. Really sad.

Posted by Roses, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 21, 2012 at 5:09 pm

3 posts a not a single rant against trial lawyers?

Could be a local record.

Posted by Sue, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 21, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I am not a lawyer, nor do I have any lawyers in my family, but I resent the suggestion that all trial lawyers are evil. Some lawsuits are worthy lawsuits!!! Do not blanket all lawyers that participate in trials and represent worthy clients, as bad people. They work for a living just like anyone else, and they work very, very, hard, many, many hours!! Are you jealous of their salary or something? As partners in law firms, you resent their take home pay? Or what is it about lawyers, trial lawyers or any other kind of lawyers, that you resent? You sure would appreciate having a lawyer if you needed one!

Posted by Roses, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 21, 2012 at 9:48 pm


If that was addressed to me, I think I have failed to communicate properly or you missed my point.

I also typed poorly

3 posts AND not a single....

Posted by downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Repeat- Who was the physician? You don't serve the public well by declining to identify the MD who performed the procedure. If you identify the victim after the case has been tried, you are remiss in not also publishing the name of the doctor who treated Ms. Frankel.

Posted by Cynthia Greaves, a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Palo Alto Medical Foundation C.E.O. Richard Slavin, M.D., issued a statement today:
"On Monday, March 19, 2012, a Santa Clara County jury found in favor of Robyn Frankel in a lawsuit filed against the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group related to a medical procedure that was performed at Stanford Hospital and Clinics by Stanford radiologists. We deeply sympathize with Ms. Frankel and her family. While we respect the jury process, the medical group is presently considering its legal options. We believe that the care provided by the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group was appropriate. We appreciate the trust that the community has placed in us for the past eighty years to provide the best possible care for our patients. The safety and health of our patients has always been, and will continue to be, our highest priority."

Posted by Sue, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 22, 2012 at 3:39 am

Roses: I understand you now - you mean you were being sarcastic. Thank you!

Posted by Chaz, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 22, 2012 at 11:13 pm

I've been getting more and more annoyed with PAMF in recent years, and have heard first-hand of terrible mistakes they've made and their arrogant refusal to face the damage they've caused. I've only recently learned that the old PAMC sold itself to Sutter Health, and that's the cause of their rapid downhill slide. (I realize this case probably predates Sutter).

I am so grateful to have found a few docs in private practice who have been able to resist the market pressure and bullying to join the Sutter network. It's sad to hear from various medical friends that Sutter has been buying up medical clinics all around the Bay Area and dragging them into the gutter. Very hard to BE a good doctor in a place managed by Sutter.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm

As with ANY service provider (doctor, lawyer, ad agency...), your service is only as good as YOUR provider.

There are excellent doctors at PAMF there are horrible private, solo practitioners.

And the reverse is most definitely true.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm

PAMF didn't do the damage, Stanford did. As far as I've read, the dictor's/s name(s) haven't been released.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 24, 2012 at 8:51 am

Doctors performing unecessary tests. It's called "defensive medicine." Doctors have become wo worrried about being sued because they didn't perform every possible test available that they commonly order tests that are unecessary. We can thank our litigous society for this. If everyone wasn't so ready to sue at the drop of a hat, we might not have this situation. We have ourselves to blame for this.

Yes, there are incompetent doctors. The vast majority are not. Medicine is almost as much an art as it is a science. As such it is quite possible to make honest mistakes. Those honest mistakes can be made by perfectly competent doctors. I don't think we should be crucifying these people for what many times amounts to an honest mistake or the practice of defensive medicine, that we as a society, have brought about.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Mar 24, 2012 at 2:39 pm

MV - it's not that they were running every test possible in this situation - maybe they'd already done that. She'd suffered mightily from migraines & had a suggested interventionary procedure but allegedly wasn't informed as to the potential danger of it. I personally would be very concerned & would ask about the danger of something being done to my brain - maybe she did, too. If that didn't cue them about written informed consent, it's their bad.

What's not clear to me is why PAMF is involved specifically re informed consent. It's not stated if they recommended her to Stanford for this specific procedure & she didn't get warned about the dangers from either party, or if she had a general referral to Stanford & it was Stanford who failed to warn but PAMF is named since they were the referring organization (& I suspect the former). Not enough detail is given & since the Stanford settlement isn't public, we'll likely never know.

She's now a single mom, gravely disabled & needs care, which costs money. While I come from a medical family & I understand about mistakes, I'm glad she can be taken care of- she's still a young woman.

I can only imagine how the docs & other personnel involved feel & I have sympathy for them, but they're probably able to get up & walk any time they choose, feel the grass under their feet, dress themselves & not worry about disabled facilities every time they leave the house.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 25, 2012 at 9:52 am


it is astonishing to me that she would not have been informed as to the dangers involved in her procedure. Every medical procedure I've ever had at PAMF has required I sign a form detailing every possible bad thing that could happen, up to and including death. Even for a mole excision. You also have to wonder about someone in this day and age that isn't aware that ANY invasive procedure carries risks with it. I have to ask was this a paperwork problem (no record of the patient being informed) or did they actually not inform her?

It is terrible that she is suffering for this and my heart goes out to her and her family. I just don't think people should be crucifying the doctors in this case. As you said, I'm sure they feel terrible about it.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Good points, MV. I've been lucky to NOT have to have many invasive procedures, but the one I did recently was at PAMF. They did a great job, I did sign my life away as well. Before the procedure, I researched it, looked at alternatives & consulted w/a family member in the medical profession. The doc treating me also had suggested, as they do, the least risky, least invasive procedure. Ironically, it worked for awhile, then I sought out acupunture & herbal medicine, which seemed to work better. I'm not knocking the procedure done, it just wasn't 100% effective, & I didn't want to then do the more invasive. That said, while my situation wasn't fun, it wasn't as painful as ongoing migraines. I wonder how desperate a migraine patient would have to be to go for an invasive brain procedure!

Well, at this point, all that we can do is specuculate. I must say that I am happy that she has money for her care - it would be worse if she didn't, imo.

Angiography is a subspecialty in radiology & there are docs better at certain procedures than others - this may have been a specific referral because of that. Hard to know, behind the scenes, how many other lives have been irrevocably changed from this, besides the victim and her family.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 27, 2012 at 8:56 am

MV makes a great point. I have had several procedures and the physicians have always provided me with an explanation of every possible complication (sometimes, including death).

Every procedure carries risk. I have had two friends die from complications from relatively minor procedures. One friend died after a 45 minute knee arthroscopy procedure.

Sometimes juries find for plaintiffs simply because they want the big, rich insurance company to provide for the aggrieved family. I think in the absence of blame that is wrong, but it is understandable.

I agree with MV that we should resist crucifying doctors unless full culpability is proven.

Posted by dr j, a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm

I think most of you have missed the point. This is not about informed consent. The patient to my knowledge was made aware of the risks. The problem is that the procedure was inapproprite to be ordered in the first place. All prior tests that were neede were done. This angiogram should not have been ordered at all. It is not the patinets resposibility to know that. So what if she was informed of even death. What uf you did a cat scan of the brain for a knee problemm and died from a allergic response.even if you were informes of the risks the wrong test was ordered. Unfortunately. Palo alto orfered the wrong test that would not have helped her in making a diagnosis.pretty easy to understand. Nobody is really a winner,but in this case it appears the jury got it right!Concerned citizen and MD!

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Dr. J -

You may be a doctor (although your post certainly doesn't support that assumption) but you are clearly not much of an attorney or reader.

Actually, informed consent apparently WAS the issue in this case. Quoting from the article: "...according to the lawsuit, Ms. Frankel was not told that the procedure was invasive and risky; AND THE JURY FOUND SHE WAS NOT GIVEN INFORMED CONSENT [emphasis added]..." That quote came from none other than the plantiff's own attorney!

Regarding your challenge to the appropriateness of an angiogram for this condition, as a physician you would surely know that it is impossible - yes, IMPOSSIBLE - for you to render such a definitive opinion from the facts in the article. Unless you were Ms. Frankel's personal physician or had the opportunity to review her medical records, there is no way you could know that. Yours is a truly shameful speculation and I'm sure you would resent being second guessed by another physician who had no personal knowledge of your patient.

Posted by dr tosh, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2012 at 9:37 am

"as a physician you would surely know that it is impossible - yes, IMPOSSIBLE - for you to render such a definitive opinion (a newspaper article)"

Well, Dr Bill Frist was able to render a diagnosis from a brief videotape, enough so to cause the whole government to drop what it was doing and try to 'save' Terry Schiavo.

Of course, Frist was (is?) a moron and Schiavo had essentially a liquefied frontal cortex, but Frist got Dubya to stop clearing brush, jump on a plane and sign a nonsense bill. The very definition of 'big government' Web Link


Pogo's correct, 'dr j' needs to actually read the article.

And for Pete's sake, return the nickname, unharmed and untarnished, to one of the great basketball players of all time.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 11, 2012 at 10:51 am

dr tosh -

I'm not sure of the relevance, but, yes, Bill Frist was clearly a jerk for his speculation, too.