Conn. Veteran Wins Nearly $1M After Botched Cataract Surgery

Jose Goncalves, 60, is blind in one eye after botched cataract surgery.

June 29, 2011, 9:26 AM

June 29, 2011— -- A 60-year-old Army veteran has won $925,000 in a settlement with the Department of Veterans' Affairs following a botched cataract operation.

Jose Goncalves was blinded in his right eye in 2007 when a resident at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in West Haven, Conn., injected too much anesthetic too fast, causing his eyeball to literally explode.

The outpatient surgery to remove cataracts, which cloud the lens and make it difficult to see, is done using local anesthetic, and the patient is usually awake during the procedure. But Dr. Yue Michelle Wang, the resident responsible for numbing Goncalves' eye, injected the anesthetic "directly into Jose's eye instead of behind the eye," according to Goncalves' attorney, Christopher Bernard of the law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder.

"It is clear that Dr. Wang's training was seriously inadequate," Bernard said in a statement. "This should have been a routine procedure as it is for countless people every day. When proper techniques are used, this particular complication should never occur."

Wang and the U.S. attorney's office, which represented the VA, did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for a comment.

The lawsuit, filed in October 2009, argued that Goncalves' injuries were "a result of carelessness and negligence" by the doctors at the Veterans' Administration Hospital and that he "has been permanently deprived of his ability to carry on and enjoy life's activities."

Goncalves endured four more surgeries to try to save vision in the damaged eye, to no avail. Unable to return to his job as a roofer, he now works in the maintenance department at Central Connecticut State University. He can only drive short distances, according to Bernard, and struggles with reading and watching television because his undamaged eye tires quickly.

"Jose suffered excruciating pain after that botched surgery and continued to have severe pain for months afterward," Bernard said in a statement. "If anything should ever happen to the undamaged left eye, he could face total blindness."

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