Iowa surgeon accused of incompetence in patient’s death is fined $5,000

By: - December 2, 2022 10:17 am

An Iowa surgeon accused of professional incompetence has been fined $5,000 and given a warning by the Iowa Board of Medicine. (Photo by Getty Images)

An Iowa surgeon accused of contributing to a patient’s death during a botched operation 10 years ago has been fined $5,000 and given a warning by the Iowa Board of Medicine.

Dr. William E. Olson, a general surgeon who practices in the Quad-City area, was charged by the board two years ago with professional incompetence. The board cited two incidents involving adverse outcomes from surgical procedures performed by Olson.

In the first case, Olson performed gastric bypass surgery on a patient in May 2012. The patient later experienced severe abdominal pain and vomiting. A CT scan revealed a bowel obstruction, which Olson attempted to address through a second operation on June 1. The patient’s condition deteriorated, and she died two weeks later. An autopsy documented findings that were consistent with a “misconstruction” of the gastric bypass, the board alleged.

In the second case, Olson performed a two-stage colostomy procedure on a 59-year-old woman in 2015 and early 2016. Eight days after the second operation, the woman arrived at a hospital emergency room complaining of severe abdominal pain and rectal bleeding. The board alleges that Olson failed to perform a “workup” of the patient or perform a surgical exploration to rule out an anastomotic leak, which occurs when a surgical connection of the intestines fails and the contents of the intestines leak from the surgical site.

In 2018, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation reprimanded Olson and ordered him to complete 15 hours of medical education in response to a medical malpractice settlement involving a gastric bypass.

The Iowa Board of Medicine, citing the care delivered to the two patients and the Illinois board’s action, recently issued Olson a warning that “such conduct in the future may result in further disciplinary action.”

The board also imposed a $5,000 civil penalty and placed Olson’s license on probation for two years, during which time his treatment of patients will be monitored by another Iowa-licensed surgeon.

Court records indicate Olson is currently being sued by the estate of a former patient, Kathleen Hazen. The family alleges that shortly after Olson performed gall bladder surgery on Hazen in February 2016, she had to undergo corrective surgery due to a bile leak. She later went into shock and died within four weeks of the initial surgery. Olson has denied any wrongdoing, and a trial is scheduled for next month.

In 2016, Olson was sued by the family of another former patient, Roberta Jenkins. The family alleges Olson performed a colostomy-reversal procedure on Jenkins in January of that year. Days after the surgery, Jenkins allegedly was taken to a hospital emergency room, in shock with symptoms of blood loss. She died shortly thereafter. Olson denied any wrongdoing, and the lawsuit was dismissed in 2017 with no public disclosure of any settlement.

The dates of Jenkins’ treatment correspond to those of the unnamed second patient in the Board of Medicine’s decision.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.