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Former Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin sues hospital, doctors

Marty Balin, left, with other members of Jefferson

Marty Balin, left, with other members of Jefferson Airplane on Dec. 5, 1968. A lawsuit filed by Balin against Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital says the singer and guitarist lost part of his tongue and has a paralyzed vocal cord because of the procedure done after he was hospitalized for an emergency heart surgery in 2016. Credit: AP

Former Jefferson Airplane lead singer Marty Balin has filed a new medical malpractice suit in Manhattan federal court against Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, claiming that his vocal cords were paralyzed and he lost half his tongue in a botched tracheotomy after open heart surgery.

The rock icon, a founder and key member of the 1960s group on classic psychedelic rock albums like “Surrealistic Pillow,” says in the lawsuit that his “ability to sing and play in a band has been destroyed” in the wake of his hospitalization in 2016.

The suit also names six doctors. It says Balin, 76, needed emergency open-heart surgery while he was in New York performing, but he received inadequate care after the triple bypass and valve replacement in part because of inadequate staffing as the hospital was in the process of closing the East 17th Street facility where he was recovering.

Balin’s wife, according to the lawsuit, brought care deficiencies to the attention of staff, but they weren’t corrected and were responsible for him needing a tracheotomy.

“Mr. Balin walked into the hospital able to speak and with a fully functional left hand,” the suit said. “By the time Mr. Balin was finally released from the hospital, he had lost half his tongue so that he cannot speak or eat properly. He also has a paralyzed vocal cord. He has a necrotic left hand and has lost his left thumb. He has become totally disabled.”

Balin, whose real name is Martyn Buchwald, headlined Jefferson Airplane from 1965 to 1971 along with co-lead singer Grace Slick and guitarists Paul Kantner, Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen 

His best known songs included “It’s No Secret,” “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” and “Comin’ Back to Me.” Balin was later part of an Airplane offshoot, Jefferson Starship.

The lawsuit is seeking money damages, but does not state a dollar figure.

The hospital declined comment on a "pending legal matter" in a statement but said its highest priority is "delivering the highest level of compassionate care."

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