Essential California: Botched surgeries and death

Family members in a kitchen
Lenora Lewis prepares dinner for her family as her husband, Sean Lewis, helps their granddaughter, Lilliana Vega. Lenora had hoped spinal surgery would relieve her chronic back pain, but when she awoke from the operation in 2013, she was paralyzed from the waist down.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, July 15. I’m Shelby Grad, filling in for Justin Ray.

California Medical Board records show it received nearly 90,000 complaints against doctors in the last decade from patients, nurses, fellow physicians and others. Ten doctors were most frequently found to have committed serious malpractice by the California Medical Board, according to a Times analysis of board actions since 2008.

Here are some findings from our investigation:

The accusations substantiated by the board include gross negligence that left patients dead, paralyzed or missing limbs. Some doctors also were alleged to have misled patients — and the board’s own investigators — to conceal significant medical errors.

The board found that nine of them committed offenses that warranted license revocation, but it instead gave them lighter punishment — their revocations were stayed and they were put on probation.


Four went on to be accused of doing serious harm to other patients after their first board discipline, The Times found in a review of medical board records.

Plus: A Times guide to learn more about your own doctor (it’s not that easy). Los Angeles Times

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


Is it time for California to begin mandatory water restrictions for the entire state? Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials say it’s too early. But some experts say the worsening drought makes stronger measures inevitable, and that they hope it can lead to greater conservation. Los Angeles Times

With somewhat cooler temperatures, firefighters hope to make progress on fires around the state. Los Angeles Times


But a new fire is now a threat near the area that burned in California’s worst-ever fire in Paradise. Chico Enterprise-Record

The heat wave made baby hawks jump out of their nests. Redding Record Searchlight

Enduring a cycle of flames and heat. The Guardian

Fire danger is now “extreme” in the Angeles National Forest. Los Angeles Times


COVID-19 is rebounding across Southern California, swelling the numbers of infections and hospitalizations and prompting fresh calls for residents to get vaccinated. While their overall numbers remain relatively low compared with the pandemic’s earlier high-water marks, Orange, San Diego and San Bernardino counties have all seen their daily case averages more than triple over the last two weeks — mirroring a trend that’s also been seen in Los Angeles County, data compiled by The Times show. Los Angeles Times


Street vendors in the town of Cudahy have created an exciting and tasty “restaurant row” so unlike the one in Beverly Hills. Can it survive? LA Taco


How could this happen? There is growing scrutiny over a 17-million-gallon sewage spill into the Santa Monica Bay, with many asking how the spill occurred and why it took so long to alert the public. Los Angeles Times

General Motors is making a bet about L.A. and the future of the office with its move to the region. Wall Street Journal

California’s next wine country — will it be the Palos Verdes Peninsula? Los Angeles Daily News

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Where the money went: The shocking ways Sacramento County Sheriff’s officials used an inmate welfare fund. Sacramento Bee

Can a homeowners association really ban cats? A legal debate roiling one Oceanside community. San Diego Union-Tribune


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An amazing read: A mystery at the heart of prehistoric California. Los Angeles Times

a large structure
The Calico Early Man Site has been closed to the public since vandalism began in 2016.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

A “tech transplant” remaking (and shaking) Lake Tahoe. SFGATE

Wedding bells are ringing at San Francisco City Hall. New York Times


The story of the lost Chicano voice in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”: “My only reason for describing him in the book as a 300-pound Samoan instead of a 250-pound Chicano lawyer was to protect him from the wrath of the L.A. cops and the whole California legal establishment he was constantly at war with.” The New Yorker


More battling over the future of the Golden Globe awards. Los Angeles Times

Boozy Dole Whips: Here is the right way to drink at Disneyland. Yes, Disneyland. LAist

Do the Emmys show the age of the antihero (Tony, Walt, Don) is over? Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: Sunny, 83. San Diego: Partly cloudy, 75. San Francisco: Partly cloudy, 62. San Jose: Partly cloudy, 74. Fresno: Sunny, 99. Sacramento: Sunny, 85.


Today’s California memory is from Roberta Jugant:

When I was a child growing up in a small town in the Sierra Nevada, our family would make semiannual car trips to visit grandparents. We’d drive down the mountain through Fresno, then head south on Highway 99 toward Bakersfield. I’d watch out the window to spot when the grape vineyards would sometimes give way to the puffy white marshmallow fields! Eventually my amused parents explained the crops were cotton.


If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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