PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (WFLA) — Christopher Cuomo’s family expected him home the same day he was dropped off for hernia surgery last February.
His mom Ann Cuomo-Neri said the shock came with a series of phone calls from the doctor’s office about complications, including one conversation about nine hours after the procedure started.
“They said he was in a medically induced coma,” Cuomo-Neri said. “I started to cry and said what? He trusted me more than anybody in the world and I promised him everything would be alright.”
Cuomo died 23 days later at the age of 46, according to his mother, who said he was active and healthy when he went in for what she thought was routine surgery.
“I wake up every morning and it’s like I just heard the news for the first time that I lost my son,” she said, fighting back tears. “I still cannot accept that my son is gone.”
Cuomo-Neri said the last weeks of her oldest son’s life included several other operations. The final procedure was the day before she saw him alive for the last time.
“We went up to the room when they finally brought him back up and he was on life support,” Cuomo-Neri said. “It’s still hard to believe.”
The doctor in the case and their attorney chose not to comment. According to the Department of Health website, the physician has no disciplinary actions on their record.
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Cuomo-Neri said she wanted to file a civil lawsuit to find out more about what went wrong and to potentially hold someone accountable, but she heard similar responses from several attorneys.
“Sorry we can’t help you. ‘And I said, what? What do you mean,” Cuomo-Neri said. “And he said the Florida law. Then, he started to explain it. I told him I don’t want money. I want my son back and I can’t have that. So, I want to hold someone accountable.”
A crush of malpractice lawsuits about 30 years ago prompted Florida lawmakers to change the state’s wrongful death law to restrict parents of children 25 or older from suing for medical malpractice.
The law also blocks children who are 25 or older from suing in claims involving divorced or widowed parents.
Proposed changes to remove the age restrictions have passed the Florida House two years in a row but did not make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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Zephyrhills Senator Danny Burgess, the former committee chair, said last year the law as it was written would have opened a floodgate of lawsuits. At the time, Burgess said he was hopeful the measure could pass with changes.
Jacksonville Republican Clay Yarborough is the new Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman. That change in leadershop has given hope to proponents of removing the restrictions.
Cuomo-Neri said she expects to testify before the legislature to push for passage.
“What I want to tell them is my son had a life,” Cuomo-Neri said. “My son’s life was taken from him.”
Cuomo-Neri said she filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Health, alleging her son was a victim of malpractice. That agency has yet to respond to our requests for comment.