The needle was reportedly left during open-heart surgery.

By Julie Mazziotta
September 06, 2018

A Tennessee family is suing after a doctor allegedly left a needle in their father’s body during surgery, which they say caused his death.

The needle was reportedly left in John Burns Johnson’s body during open-heart surgery, and a second surgery to remove the lost needle was unsuccessful. His family alleges in the lawsuit, filed Thursday, that the missing needle caused significant pain, and was the reason for his death one month later.

“Mr. Johnson’s condition continued to deteriorate over the next thirty days,” the lawsuit states, according to The Tennessean. “He was critically ill and never saw his home again.”

The 73-year-old underwent open-heart surgery at TriStar Centennial hospital in Nashville on May 2, 2017. After the 9-hour-surgery, performed by Dr. Sreekumar Subramanian, he reportedly closed Johnson’s sternum and realized that one of the needles was missing. An X-ray confirmed that the needle was inside Johnson’s body.

Subramanian reopened Johnson’s body to search for the needle, but could not remove it after three hours, and closed the patient’s sternum again.

Johnson’s family said in the lawsuit that their father had a difficult final month, and that his death was “painful, unnecessary and wrongful.” They said that the needle was finally found during Johnson’s autopsy.

PEOPLE has contacted TriStar Centennial for comment. The hospital told The Tennessean on Friday that they were not ready to comment on the lawsuit.

“We take the responsibility of properly caring for our patients very seriously and empathize with the understandable grief being felt by the family,” TriStar told The Tennessean.