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Lawsuits allege local hospital knew of and ignored surgeon’s impairments and botched surgeries

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Former patients of a well-known local surgeon have filed suits against him.

Those suits not only allege Dr. David Heekin made medical errors because of mental and physical impairments, but they also claimed the hospital where he worked was aware of the issues.

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One of his patients, Jaqueline Rivera, filed suit in 2021.

When Rivera came to Ascension St. Vincent’s for a knee replacement, she was hoping her surgeon would help her, but she said something went wrong while she was under the knife.

“I should be able to live a comfortable life without going through this,” Rivera said.

In 2019, Rivera went to Dr. Heekin for a left knee replacement. He’d replaced her right knee more than a dozen years before, and she recovered fine.

This time, she said, was different. It started at her final consultation when she said she noticed Dr. Heekin was acting out of character.

“His speech was a little slurred. His eye movement was a little slow,” Rivera said.

That is part of the allegations she and other patients made in their lawsuits: instability, mood disturbances and diminished motor skills.

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Despite her concerns, Rivera scheduled her knee replacement. Months later, she said she realized something was wrong.

“I think I’m picking up my leg ,but I’m dragging it,” Rivera said.

She said she went back for several follow-up appointments.

Finally, she sought a second opinion, and what that doctor found shocked her.

“One leg was longer than the other,” she claimed.

According to her lawsuit, Rivera underwent another surgery to correct what Dr. Heekin had done.

When she saw a law firm’s commercial on TV, she realized others claimed similar harm at the hands of Dr. Heekin.

She filed suit so she could join more than 100 other former patients with similar complaints.

“Patients aren’t putting up with all of this anymore. This is our body. We’re the ones who have to live with this,” Rivera said.

Rivera considers herself lucky.

Other patient complaints against Dr. Heekin claim dislocations, post-op infections and unnecessary surgeries. One court document even names two other patients who allegedly died as a result of their surgeries.

The case stated Dr. Heekin is partially to blame. Court documents also said the hospital where he worked, Ascension St. Vincent, knew he presented a danger to patients.

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The lawsuit said St. Vincent’s employees directly told management about Dr. Heekin’s behavior. It also said the hospital chose to “ignore and silence such complaints.”

“It’s just heartbreaking that they ignored it for whatever reason,” Rivera said.

Action News Jax reached out to Ascension St. Vincent’s for comment.

Our calls and emails were not answered.

Neither were our attempts to contact Dr. Heekin’s attorneys.

State records show Dr. Heekin ended up voluntarily surrendering his medical license in August 2021. According to those documents, this was after an investigation into a surgery Dr. Heekin improperly documented that wrapped up just a month prior.

Still, the lawsuits allege St. Vincent’s never took any action itself to revoke Dr. Heekin’s license before then.

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