Final Verdict: Surgery Did Not Cause Injury
When a patient’s condition worsens after a medical procedure, it’s natural to assign blame. Humans have evolved to identify patterns and associate correlation with causation. If two things seem linked in time or provenance, the immediate tendency is to conclude that one must have caused the other. This predilection might have been advantageous to our savannah ancestors, but it doesn’t always yield the correct results when dealing with the complexities and uncertainties of modern medicine.
Medical malpractice attorneys often receive calls from patients who have experienced a negative outcome following surgery, use of a prescription, or other treatment. To them, it seems clear that their pain and suffering is the result of something that was done improperly. They may not know what went wrong, but they are certain that someone should be held responsible.
If winning a medical malpractice case merely required a showing that an adverse impact had followed a medical procedure, these cases would be far more common and medical malpractice insurance would be dramatically more expensive. Instead, a medical malpractice lawyer has to show that the injury resulted from an actual mistake or other problem associated with the procedure. Also, the mistake must be significant enough that it constitutes a breach of the ordinary standard of care.
For Sheri Fox, a 40-year-old animal control officer, it seemed clear that something had gone seriously wrong during surgery. In 2012, she was diagnosed with a cancerous dermoid cyst. She went to Annapolis OB-GYN Associates and was treated by Dr. Claudia Hays, who operated on Sheri and removed her ovaries along with the cyst by laparoscopic oophorectomy. Five days after the surgery, however, she began experiencing severe symptoms, and it was determined that she had a perforation of the sigmoid colon.
Perforation of the sigmoid colon often occurs when existing vulnerabilities in the large intestine, like diverticula, become more pronounced and rupture. The condition can cause life-threatening infection and requires immediate treatment. Sheri had to have repair surgery, a colostomy, and a colostomy reversal.
Sheri sued Dr. Hays, arguing that the perforation had occurred during the surgery and that the doctor should have recognized the error and repaired it immediately. She also stated that she was permanently unable to go back to work and demanded $4 million in damages.
During the nine-day trial, however, the defense denied any violations of the standard of care. They argued that the perforation could not have taken place during the surgery, since symptoms did not present for five days, and that it had nothing to do with the oophorectomy. They said it was most likely due to a thermal injury or a perforation of a diverticulum. They denied responsibility for subsequent surgeries and hospitalization. Additionally, they challenged the degree of injury, presenting evidence that she had returned to normal life activities, including parasailing. Cohen & Cohen
After five hours of deliberation, the Anne Arundel County jury reached a finding of no malpractice and returned a verdict for the defense.