Hiral Tipirneni, an Indian American congressional candidate in Arizona’s 8th District, has had to defend her career when a malpractice lawsuit from 2005 was dug up in the weeks leading up to the April 24 special election for the open seat.
The physician, who made a career working as an emergency room doctor, settled the malpractice suit months before she left her career to focus on cancer research in 2007.
Tipirneni won the special election Democratic primary with relative ease and now faces Republican former state Sen. Debbie Lesko for the seat vacated by Trent Franks, who resigned amid a surrogacy scandal that was unearthed late last year (see earlier India-West story here).
When ABC15 in Arizona reported on the issue of the malpractice, Tipirneni’s campaign issued a statement saying, "Desperate Debbie Lesko knows she is in trouble, so she's trying to distract voters from her agenda of cutting Medicare, Social Security and access to healthcare for Arizonans.”
It added that Tipirneni’s service and her work in cancer research are “worthy of respect – not cheap political smears from a career politician.”
“In the span of just a few years, Hiral lost both her mom and her nephew to cancer. This is the reason she stopped working in the ER and dedicated herself to cancer research advocacy,” the statement read.
The 2005 malpractice lawsuit was filed by a Phoenix woman, Belen Carrillo, before her death. Carrillo claimed that Tipirneni and a physicians’ employee group failed to give her a medically necessary tetanus immunization while treating her for a leg wound in 2001, the ABC15 report said.
According to the plaintiff's lawyer and son, Carrillo, then 72, contracted tetanus, ended up in a coma for weeks, and suffered kidney failure. The lawsuit says Carrillo sustained "permanent injury and disability,” it said.
“I did my best job as I did every time with every patient," Tipirneni said, according to the report. "Although you feel very bad for any bad outcome and consequences a patient deals with, not every bad outcome is because of a mistake or bad medicine."
Tipirneni says the lawsuit did not cause her to change careers. Instead, she was impacted by her two relatives who died from cancer, the report noted.
Tipirneni continues to have a valid Arizona medical license, and she never faced discipline from the Arizona Medical Board.
She is not currently board certified in emergency medicine. In recent years, she worked as a scientific review officer for a Virginia company, adding that her role includes acting as a "cancer research advocate," the report noted.
ABC15 asked the Indian American candidate if portraying herself in medical scrubs for campaign ads, despite being out of a hospital setting for more than a decade, was disingenuous.
The candidate said, “No. That's a skill set I am very proud of, and I worked very hard to acquire.”
In related news, the Democratic Party, sensing victory, has rallied behind Tipirneni ahead of the special election. “Hiral’s running in a district that Democrats haven’t contested since 2012. And winning this race would significantly boost our chances of flipping the House in November,” the Democratic Party said, according to PTI.