Mary Jeanne Altieri had surgery on her right shoulder in 2005 to repair a torn rotator cuff but said the pain never subsided. Her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Spyros Panos, prescribed medication, physical therapy and eventually, another surgery.
Altieri, now 65, worked as a receptionist in the same medical office as Panos in Dutchess County New York for more than eight years. Their families knew each other. She described him as a wonderful person and friend and said she completely trusted him as a doctor. So when he recommended the second surgery in 2009, she said she never questioned it.
But when Altieri's pain worsened she sought a second opinion, and then another. The third doctor told her that he was able to explain why her shoulder wasn't getting better: Panos had never operated on it, she said.
"I felt betrayed. I felt anger," Altieri said, recalling her emotions when she was informed of the alleged nonexistent surgery. "And I felt so stupid for not being more aware of what was going on."