The family of a Waunakee man is suing UnityPoint Health-Meriter and a former doctor there after the man died in 2011 following heart surgery by the doctor, who was later fired by Meriter and surrendered his state medical license because of an investigation related to the death.
The widow and estate of Thomas Pliner, 77, allege wrongful death and negligence by Meriter and Dr. Sean Yetman in the medical malpractice lawsuit filed Friday in Dane County Circuit Court.
Details of the case were brought to the family’s attention last year by a State Journal reporter working on an article about doctor discipline in Wisconsin.
According to state Medical Examining Board records, Meriter fired Yetman in October 2011 after hiring a consultant to review records of the seven patients he operated on during his short time at the hospital.
The cases include two deaths, which prompted a state investigation in 2013 that led Yetman to surrender his license in 2014.
In August 2011, Yetman did a heart bypass and heart valve repair surgery on Pliner, who bled a lot during the procedure and died the next day, according to the medical board records.
Yetman left Pliner on a heart-lung bypass machine too long, and he should have stopped trying to harvest one of Pliner’s arteries for the bypass and instead harvested a vein, medical board records said.
Nancy Glumske, 61, of Elroy, died after a similar operation in July 2011. Yetman left her on a heart-bypass machine too long, and he should have replaced the heart valve with an artificial device instead of trying to repair it, the records said.
Family members of Pliner and Glumskie told the State Journal last year they had no idea Yetman had been fired by Meriter or disciplined by the medical board until the newspaper contacted them.
Jodie Busch, of Waunakee, Pliner’s daughter, said at the time she wished Meriter had told her family why it let Yetman go.
The statute of limitations to file a lawsuit generally is three years after an incident, but cases can be brought up to a year after the discovery of negligence if it occurred no more than five years earlier.
Yetman, who was listed in January as working at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, is no longer listed as working there. The medical board in Massachusetts says he is working in Astoria, New York. The website for USA Vein Clinics, which has a clinic in Astoria, lists Yetman among its doctors.
The lawsuit, by Shirley Pliner and Thomas Pliner’s estate, alleges Yetman failed to meet the standard of care by damaging Pliner’s vein, which caused uncontrollable bleeding, and leaving him on bypass for more than eight hours. It says Meriter negligently hired and/or supervised Yetman.
Busch and the Pliner family’s attorneys, Timothy Capser and Thomas Griesheimer of the Madison law firm Murphy Desmond, could not be reached for comment Monday. Meriter declined comment.
Yetman told a state investigator there were “political reasons” for his termination and experienced surgeons didn’t take him under their wing. He told the State Journal last year that he denies any unprofessional conduct.