Dr. Long-Dei Liu, who in 2015 lost a $2 million civil jury judgment in the death of a 26-year-old Chinese woman shortly after she delivered a boy in a Garden Grove hospital, was finally disciplined by the state medical board.
Liu’s license to practice medicine was placed on five years probation, but the Medical Board of California stayed that for 35 months probation if the longtime OB/GYN adheres to certain conditions.
Ling Nie died at Garden Grove Hospital and Medical Center four days after delivering her second son and developing complications from a postpartum hemorrhage.
On behalf of himself and his two sons, Nie’s husband filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against Liu and the hospital. The complaint alleged Liu left the mother’s bedside in the ICU too soon and without first checking her vital signs.
Liu argued Nie was stable when he went home and that nurses should have summoned him back to the hospital sooner. But after a seven-day trial, a jury awarded the family about $2 million in damages from Liu. By then the hospital had already settled for $3.2 million.
The case was previously covered by the Weekly in “Dr. Long-Dei Liu Loses Hospital Privileges and $2 Million Wrongful Death Suit But Not License.”
The medical board discipline of Liu won’t be official until March 8, but the decision has already been posted on the state agency’s website. Those documents concede that five years of probation for a medical license is the “minimum” the state imposes, particularly in a case involving gross negligence.
However, the order signed by Medical Board of California Chairman Dr. Ronald H. Lewis states “such discipline is not warranted in this matter” because Liu “has enjoyed a long period of practice with no prior record of discipline, and he is well-regarded in the medical community.”
Among the conditions the board imposed on Liu’s license, and which must be accomplished before his probationary period ends, are: a prohibition from supervising physician assistants; monitoring of his practice by a board designee; completion of education and medical record keeping courses; and notification to hospitals and other facilities where he has privileges of his probation status.
Noting that Liu has already implemented changes at his practice, the document Lewis signed argues that just shy of three years of probation for his license is enough time to protect the public. That floors patient advocate Marian Hollingsworth, who resides near San Diego.
Active in the California Safe Patient Network’s Docs on Probation campaign, Hollingsworth notes that this marks the second time in four months the medical board has given less than the recommended discipline for a childbirth death. In October, the board put the license of Dr. Arjang Naim on probation for four years instead of the minimum of five years for the 2016 bleeding death of Kira Johnson at Cedars Sinai Hospital.
“There has been considerable outrage over maternal mortality in this country, particularly among women of color,” Hollingsworth points out. “Liu’s patient was a Chinese national, and Kira Johnson was African-American.”
It is Hollingsworth’s opinion “that the medical board doesn’t think that the preventable bleeding death of a young woman in childbirth should interfere with a doctor’s practice. They don’t think it’s bad enough to warrant the minimum discipline as outlined in their own disciplinary guidelines. It’s a very sad commentary on how the board fails to hold these doctors accountable.”
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.