Brain surgery patient sues Sanford doctor


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — We have new developments in a story we first brought you last week.

Sioux Falls Neurosurgeon, Dr. Wilson Asfora, is accused of defrauding the federal government, performing unnecessary surgeries, breaking the law and harming patients in the process.

KELOLAND Investigates has discovered this isn’t the only current civil lawsuit against Asfora. KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke has the details on that case.

The 2016 civil lawsuit brought by the U.S. Government and two doctors who complained about Doctor Wilson Asfora’s practices was recently unsealed in federal court. That case involves a medical device for back surgeries.

KELOLAND Investigates has found a former Dr. Asfora brain surgery patient who is also suing, but this civil case is in state court. Robin LeBeau underwent brain surgery in 2016 at Sanford Health. She claims the surgery was unnecessary and left her disabled.

“The chief of police asked me if I would become a female police officer because they didn’t have any on the reservation and they needed them. And that’s when they sent me to training,” Robin LeBeau said.

Robin LeBeau was just the second woman to graduate from the Indian Police Academy and work as a tribal officer in Eagle Butte. As part of the tribal council, she went to Washington, D.C. to help get the Violence against Women Act passed.

In 2015, she started getting headaches after a fall and underwent an MRI at Indian Health Services.

“And they told me I had this brain tumor and I was going to go blind and that it grew significantly and that I needed to see a surgeon here in Sioux Falls and go through brain surgery immediately,” LeBeau said.

So she met with Neurosurgeon Dr. Wilson Asfora in September of 2016.

“His exact words were, ‘we are going to suck this booger out,'” LeBeau said.

In her lawsuit, LeBeau alleges that “Asfora claimed to have removed a tumor from her brain and informed her the brain surgery was necessary to remove a tumor, which he claimed was causing the symptoms she was experiencing at the time.”

“There should not have ever been a brain surgery performed on me. That I was not a candidate for this brain surgery. If he would have looked at all my medical records, he would have seen that I did not need surgery,” LeBeau said.

LeBeau claims something went horribly wrong during surgery at Sanford Health.

“I never forget that day because that’s the day they told me I hemorrhaged because he nicked my dural sac,” LeBeau said.

According to LeBeau’s medical records from the Mayo Clinic, the surgery was “complicated with hemorrhage requiring surgical repair.”

LeBeau says following the surgery, she has “suffered memory loss, physical disability, and the loss of employment as well as the loss of future medical care and treatment.” 

“I worked hard. I had a career. I took care of my son, myself. I never had to depend on nobody. And now I have nothing. He took all of that from me,” LeBeau said.

In court papers, according to LeBeau’s “medical records she did not have the type of tumor Asfora claimed, rather a condition known as Rathke’s cleft cyst.”

A Rathke’s cleft cyst is a benign growth found on the pituitary gland in the brain.

In his response to the lawsuit filed in Minnehaha County Court, Dr. Asfora “admits that he attempted a transspehnoidal cyst removal,” but denies any negligence or causing any injury. 

Two years following the surgery, a Mayo Clinic doctor reported that “the Rathke’s cleft cyst was unchanged since 2012.”  “He does not recommend any surgical intervention and avoid it if at all possible.”  LeBeau was also diagnosed with a “post-traumatic brain injury.”

“I’m suing because they took my life and they took it away from me. They took my brain. I never knew the value of my brain until this happened and I’ll never get that back,” LeBeau said.

KELOLAND Investigates reached out to Dr. Asfora’s attorney and Sanford Health about this civil lawsuit.

Sanford Health issued us the following statement:

“We have reviewed the care provided by Dr. Asfora and are certain it was appropriate. There is no medical evidence to support these claims. Sanford Health and Dr. Asfora will vigorously defend against the baseless allegations.” — Paul Hanson, President, Sanford Sioux Falls.

KELOLAND Investigates found in state court, there have only been a handful of lawsuits filed against Dr. Asfora dating back to 2006. It appears all but LeBeau’s were settled and dismissed. Complicating matters, LeBeau says no attorney is willing to take her case, so she is representing herself.

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