Widow of longtime Veroite sues doctor, Sebastian River hospital for malpractice


The widow of a deceased Vero yacht builder and renowned sailor has sued Sebastian River Medical Center and one of the area’s longtime top general surgeons for malpractice.

On March 27, Susan Lynn Seadon filed a suit in Circuit Court against the hospital and surgeon Theodore G. Perry, claiming that the handling of complications from gallbladder surgery caused the death of her husband, 76-year-old Jacques Mertens-Goossen.

The suit alleges that beyond bungling the surgery, Perry went on vacation shortly afterward and no other physician was available for follow-up.

Perry, for years a top surgeon at Indian River Medical Center before leaving the hospital in 2020 following its purchase by Cleveland Clinic, told Vero Beach 32963 he had not yet been served, and added: “I am unable to comment on the specifics of the suit at this time.

“But I can say that we have more than adequate coverage whenever I leave town,” Perry said. “There was a surgeon on call at that time.”

Sebastian River’s attorneys had not yet responded to the malpractice complaint as of press time. Cathy Pague, Space Coast Director of Marketing for Steward Health Care, owner of the Sebastian hospital, declined to comment.

In the suit, Seadon alleges that the hospital discharged her husband too soon after a laparoscopic cholecystectomy – a procedure to remove the gall bladder – performed by Perry on March 3, 2023, despite Mertens-Goossen being in a lot of pain.

Once Mertens-Goossen got home, the pain got worse and Seadon tried several times to reach Perry, who finally responded and ordered additional pain medication, the suit says. When the pain intensified even more, Seadon called Perry’s office, Steward Medical Group, on March 6, 2023, and allegedly was told that Perry was on vacation and no other physician was assigned to cover for him, the suit says.

Mertens-Goossen returned to the Sebastian hospital on March 8, 2023, where doctors determined that bile was leaking from the surgery area, the suit says. Doctors unsuccessfully attempted to repair the leak with a stent. Mertens-Goossens then was transferred to Cleveland Clinic, where doctors again attempted to repair the leak, but by then, too much internal damage had been done.

Mertens-Goossen died April 5, 2023, in Hospice care. Seadon is seeking damages in excess of $75,000.

The complaint accuses Dr. Perry of “failing to properly select and/or place surgical clips during the cholecystectomy” allowing them to migrate or fall off, causing the bile leak. The suit also accuses him of failing to seal off the cystic duct, and failing to provide an appropriate physician to follow up with his patient while he was away. This led to Mertens-Goossen becoming progressively septic, the suit says.

Trained in Belgium in naval design and yacht construction, Mertens-Goossen began Morgan’s Diesel and Marine in Fort Pierce 1986, and in 1991 founded Boat Builder Central, an online company providing boat plans, and marine engineering services to companies and individuals.

He is referred to as “a legend” in the boat design world, with thousands of boats he designed or built on the water and featured in boating publications.

Mertens-Goossen, who lived in South Vero for four decades, also sailed widely around the globe in boats he designed and built.

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