Widower’s lawsuit says his wife died after surgery with former Jacksonville doctor at center of hundreds of malpractice claims

Dr. David Heekin and Ascension St. Vincent’s facing more than 400 malpractice lawsuits

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For months, the News4JAX I-TEAM has been investigating after hundreds of lawsuits were filed against Ascension St. Vincent’s and a former orthopedic surgeon, who is accused of botching surgeries.

Lawsuits allege Dr. David Heekin was impaired by a progressive neurological condition that caused him to slur his speech and lose his balance, resulting in devastating injuries, and in one case, the death of a 70-year old patient undergoing a hip replacement.

RELATED: Lawsuits allege Ascension St. Vincent’s knew doctor wasn’t fit to operate, but allowed him to perform surgeries

On Thursday, her widower sat down for his first TV interview with the I-TEAM.

Anthony and Cindy Bonk were married for 42 years.

“It was a wonderful life,” Anthony Bonk said.

Cindy Bonk was a speech and language pathologist, a golfer, water skier, snow skier, a stepmother to two boys and “Nana” to four grandchildren.

“My boys are having a toughest time with it. And that was their stepmom. But she was a wonderful stepmom,” Anthony Bonk said.

In 2018, she went in for a hip replacement after a fall, Bonk said. He said couple turned to Dr. David Heekin, an accomplished orthopedic surgeon at Ascension St. Vincent’s.

“He said, ‘I’ll have you up and walking, that surgery should take about 45 minutes to an hour...I’ll have you up walking that day,’” Anthony Bonk said.

But after six hours in surgery, Cindy died.

“And a nurse came out and she says, ‘We’ve lost her. But you’re welcome to come in and say your goodbyes,’” Anthony Bonk said.

Cindy Bonk’s death certificate says she died from complications from a femur fracture.

Bonk’s and hundreds of other lawsuits allege leadership at St. Vincent’s knew or should have known Heekin wasn’t fit to perform surgeries, but let him continue to operate.

Court records show St. Vincent’s has accepted liability in some of those lawsuits, while denying wrongdoing in others.

A few weeks ago, an appeals court denied a request, based on privacy concerns, to protect more than 2,700 text messages making reference to Dr. Heekin on the phones of St. Vincent’s employees from disclosure in discovery.

“My heart’s about to jump out here,” Anthony Bonk said. “This is the first I’ve heard of any text messages.”

So far, 403 lawsuits have been filed.

An attorney for Ascension St. Vincent’s declined to comment and we have not yet heard back from attorneys for Heekin and the Heekin Clinic, but in court filings they all denied wrongdoing in Bonk’s case.

St. Vincent’s employees are asking planning to ask the appeals court to rehear its argument about the text messages, according to a court filing.

About the Author:

I-TEAM and general assignment reporter