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Jamaica hospital cleared of wrongful drug surgery

William Kanyi, of Ghana, filed a $25 million lawsuit against the hospital, a psychiatrist and two surgeons, saying he did not consent to the surgery to remove seven condoms filled with narcotics that may have leaked into his system, said Michael Fagan, spokesman for St. Vincent's Medical Center, which manages the Jamaica hospital.

A civil jury in Brooklyn Federal Court deliberated for two days before ruling April 21 in favor of the hospital and the doctors, a court spokesman said.

"We were pleased with the outcome," Fagan said. "We reviewed what our physicians did and we agreed with their decisions."

Benedict Gullo, Kanyi's attorney, could not be reached for comment.

Kanyi, 44, was convicted of drug smuggling charges in 1999 and sentenced to two years in prison after he swallowed more than 50 condoms filled with heroin in an attempt to smuggle the drugs into the country through Kennedy Airport. Kanyi prematurely passed 15 of the condoms on the flight and tried to hide them in his waistband but was caught by federal agents using an X-Ray machine.

Kanyi was arrested and taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital, where he refused to consent to the surgery, even though tests showed there were opiates in his system, a sign the condoms may have burst.

Psychiatrist Pinakini Shah declared Kanyi incompetent of making his own decision and told surgeons to operate, Fagan said. Seven condoms were removed from Kanyi's digestive system, he said.

Kanyi was deported back to Ghana in 2000 and was not present for the trial.

Shah and the surgeons, Steven Priolo and Mauel Fajarado, were also named in the suit.

"This is an example of a frivolous lawsuit which consumes a lot of time and resources from our mission of providing health care," Fagan said. "It just ends up making health care more expensive for everybody else."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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