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Russian teen left comatose by free surgery dies

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Russian teen who traveled halfway around the world so American doctors could remove a brain stem tumor, only to have the risky surgery leave him comatose, died Wednesday morning, his family said.

David Kurbanov, 16, came to St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City last year with his father after surgeon Paul Francel agreed to perform the surgery on the boy for free. An American missionary living in Russia helped organize it.

“There were a number of events, terrible things that did go wrong, and there were opportunities to prevent them,” said Aleksei Tarasov, a friend of Sabit Kurbanov, the boy’s father. Kurbanov does not speak English.

Kelly Bishop, the family’s attorney, said he has requested an autopsy on David and could not say if his client would sue.

“Right now, Mr. Kurbanov is grieving over the loss of his son and this terrible tragedy,” Bishop said. “When the dust settles, he may look at options with regard to his rights.”

Last year, doctors in Moscow discovered a tumor that had wrapped around David’s brain stem, crowding the portion that controls involuntary body functions such as balance, swallowing and appetite.

Surgeons in Moscow had scheduled an operation for March 2006, but warned the Kurbanovs there was a 30 percent chance David could have complications, such as partial paralysis. Surgeries like David’s have a high chance of complications during recovery, such as double vision and the use of feeding tubes.

“I did everything that could possibly be done, and so did the team there,” Francel said Wednesday. “In neurosurgery, if you have a tumor in your brain stem, it’s almost a death sentence.”