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The chairman of head and neck surgery at the University at Buffalo medical school has had his medical license suspended because of a case last year that almost ended in disaster.

The state Health Department, which charged Dr. George T. Simpson with gross negligence, suspended his license for six months and placed him on two years of probation.

In addition, Sisters Hospital, where the surgery occurred last December, took away his privileges.

The penalty came after a hearing committee characterized the physician as "winging it" and doing the surgery by the "seat of his pants."

Simpson, who serves as professor and chairman of the UB department of otolaryngology, referred questions to his Buffalo attorney, Linda C. Laing.

She echoed Simpson's statements at the hearings conducted in the summer during which he denied any gross negligence and asserted his actions were consistent with accepted standards of medical care.

"This is a good doctor with a spotless record who has been practicing medicine for more than 20 years," she said.

The surgery on an 8-year-old boy involved removal of a massive malformation of the blood vessels. The mass covered almost his entire right cheek.

Health officials said the boy suffered complications, some of them related to blood loss and the need for five transfusions, during a procedure that lasted more than six hours. Surgery ended before the procedure was completed when the anesthesiologist said it was unsafe to continue. The boy was then transferred to the intensive care unit at Children's Hospital.

Health officials faulted Simpson for a handful of missteps:

Failing to order enough blood ahead of time. It wasn't until the procedure began and the need for more blood became apparent that attempts were made to determine the boy's blood type.

Failing before surgery to perform an arteriogram, a test to evaluate blood vessel function.

Failing to prepare an adequate surgical plan for an elective procedure that should never have been performed in Sisters Hospital because it lacked an intensive care unit for children.

Failing to stop the surgery once it became apparent that to continue placed the boy at additional risk.

Health officials accused Simpson of choosing Sisters Hospital out of convenience when it was clear from the start that the extensive procedure should have been performed at Children's Hospital. The "success" of the surgery, they said, was the result of luck.

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