A San Diego woman is suing an unlicensed acupuncturist, claiming that a procedure he mishandled caused her lung to collapse.
“I remember I was sitting there… having a hard time breathing, so I kept trying to take a deep breath,” plaintiff Jaime Del Fierro said. “I didn’t know if it was a nerve that was hit or a muscle, and maybe when I breathe it was kind of pinching the nerve, I had no idea. I mean anytime I had acupuncture before I had great results.”
Del Fierro went to Dr. Walker Scott for help with her ongoing tension headaches, paying him for chiropractic adjustments and for acupuncture procedures. When she told Scott about the pain, she says he dismissed her symptoms and sent her home. Several hours later, Del Fierro took herself to a hospital, where she then underwent surgery for what doctors told her was a collapsed lung.
“It was really, really scary for me,” she said. “I kind of went into like a really dark place because I faced mortality.”
According to the lawsuit, one of Scott’s acupuncture needles “pierced through plaintiff’s chest wall and into the pleural space surrounding her lungs, causing acute pneumothorax, a collapsed lung.”
Now, Del Fierro is suing Scott for thousands of dollars in hospital bills and damages. Sean Foldenauer, Del Fierro’s attorney, said that the lawsuit also seeks a court injunction for Dr. Walker Scott to stop performing acupuncture on patients.
Though he would not comment on the specifics of the case, Scott did say in an interview that the lawsuit came as a big surprise.
“This is my first time ever dealing with anything of this magnitude, so I guess I’ll have to say, you know, I wish I could tell you way, way more but you’ll have to give it a little while and I’ll get back to you,” he said.
In order to guard against such incidents and ensure that practitioners are properly trained, it takes five years and over 3,000 hours for the California state board to grant a license to a practitioner.
Though his website lists “electro-acupuncture” as an area of practice, state records show that Scott does not have an acupuncture license.
“It’s really important to do your homework because had I known that he wasn’t licensed, I never would have went to see him,” said Del Fierro. “I just don’t want anybody to suffer like I did. I don’t want it to ever happen again.”