Carson City physician acquitted of malpractice charge by state board

The Nevada Board of Medical Examiners has acquitted Carson City physician Robert Fliegler of malpractice charges in a patient's death.

The board heard the charges this past weekend in Las Vegas. The complaint filed by the board's investigative committee said Bonnie Jean Smith came to Carson-Tahoe Hospital May 13, 2002, complaining of chest and neck pain.

Fliegler diagnosed her condition as pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac containing the heart. She returned to the hospital on May 23 at the direction of her primary-care physician, again complaining of chest pain.

Fliegler again met with her but didn't change his diagnosis or order a CT scan.

On June 10, she was rushed to the hospital by ambulance where a CT scan revealed a dissecting aortic aneurysm - a tear in the body's largest artery just after it leaves the heart.

She was rushed to Washoe Medical Center in Reno.

"The physician who examined Patient A determined that she was having a catastrophic cardiac event and that emergency surgery would be necessary to save Patient A's life," the complaint states.

The woman died on the operating table and the surgeon told investigators the aorta was chronically torn and had been in that condition "for approximately one month."

Fliegler was on staff at Carson-Tahoe Hospital at the time. Hospital officials say he left early this year and has his own practice.

The investigative committee of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners filed a complaint in June 2004 charging Fliegler "failed to use the reasonable care, skill or knowledge ordinarily used under similar circumstances when treating Patient A."

After hearing evidence, including from Fliegler, the board acquitted him of all charges.

Fliegler still, however, faces a civil suit filed by Smith's family in Washoe District Court.

That lawsuit charges he was "negligent, careless and grossly negligent" in her examination, diagnosis and treatment, and argues he is responsible for her death on June 10, 2002.

Fliegler could not be reached for comment.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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