A Santa Ana urologist, who the California Medical Board disciplined last year for mistakenly removing a patient’s spleen instead of a kidney, recently surrendered his medical license, according to state records.
Dr. Huey Chou Lin’s surrender became effective Feb. 1, 2018, according to medical board records that indicate the physician and his Irvine attorney, Raymond J. McMahon, signed a letter accepting the discipline in October. (Click here to read them.)
Lin’s license to practice medicine had been subjected to an interim suspension order due to surgeries he performed at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center. Scheduled to conduct a left nephrectomy (kidney removal) on Oct. 31, 2015, Lin instead took out the 65-year-old male patient’s spleen. That caused the hospital to suspend his privileges for 14 days, launch an investigation and inform the medical board of the actions.
The hospital’s probe looked at the most recent surgery and two other nephrectomies Lin performed in 2015 that resulted in patient deaths. The hospital’s Medical Executive Committee decided to keep the suspension in place pending Lin undergoing a neuropsychological evaluation and completing a medical record keeping course. Meanwhile, the state medical board launched a separate investigation.
After the board received an updated report from the hospital committee in February 2016, Lin’s nephrectomy privileges were terminated. The committee had concluded his surgical conduct the previous October “was egregious and included deviations from the standard of care that could not be satisfactorily explained or excused by [Lin],” according to medical board records, which added the hospital panel also found it below the standard of care that the surgeon failed to recognize the spleen before it was removed, realize he had made a mistake and promptly inform the patient of the error.
A March 14, 2016, report by psychologist Dr. Arnold D. Purisch to the hospital committee concluded that Lin was “not functioning normally” and “[t]he potential for unreliable functioning in his medical and surgical practice is real and could certainly constitute reason for concern.” Purisch recommended “a period of close monitoring and observation by his peers,” adding, “Absent such a mechanism, I cannot in good conscience provide clearance to resume his normal practice, at least from a neuropsychological perspective.”
As the hospital kept extending its suspension of Lin’s privileges, the medical board ordered a mental evaluation of its own. Following a Dec. 29, 2016, examination, psychiatrist Dr. John Hochman concluded Lin had “a mental illness or condition that impacts his ability to engage in the practice of medicine.” Stating that the impairment “places the public at risk,” Hochman found Lin’s “limitation are beyond being addressed by monitoring or oversight.”
Based on reports from CalOptima and Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center, nearby Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center restricted Lin’s privileges by requiring a second urologist or co-surgeon be present for any procedures.
Before Lin surrendered his license, the state medical board found as causes for discipline his “mental illness affecting competency,” gross negligence and repeated acts of negligence in the three previously cited surgeries in 2015 as well as failure to maintain adequate and accurate medical records.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.