Final Verdict: Surgery Turns To Nightmare
It’s every patient’s worst nightmare that a routine, straightforward medical procedure turns into a complicated mess. Every surgery has risks, but those risks should be explained ahead of time. Any outcome that wasn’t reasonably anticipated during the pre-surgery consultations is a cause for concern, since the patient deserves to have a full and complete understanding of the decision being made.
Despite the prevalence of patients who try to self-diagnose using Google or WebMD, most patients trust that their doctor is the expert. They will follow the recommendations of a physician and assume that their provider will know the correct procedure, based on their specific risks and the potential complications. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always turn out to be true. A doctor may make a mistake in diagnosis that leads to recommending the wrong procedure, or the doctor may recognize the correct condition but choose a procedure that is improper or overly-risky for the specific patient.
When a doctor fails to choose the correct approach for a medical procedure, it puts the patient at unnecessary risk. Most of the time, the patient doesn’t end up with severe complications, but when they do, it becomes the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit. A medical malpractice lawsuit based on an improper procedure or improperly-performed surgery is difficult to win, but can reveal serious failures on the part of a medical provider.
In October 2012, 69-year-old Robert Hartmann saw Dr. Edward Dunne, a urologist, for a retropubic prostatectomy. This was a routine procedure which involves the removal of the prostate gland. It was chosen because Robert had benign prostate hyperlasia, or an enlarged prostate. Unfortunately, the surgery ended in tragedy when Dr. Dunne made a serious error, lacerating the rectum and severing one of the arteries leading to the bladder.
This outcome was never something that Robert would have expected. As a result of the event, he sustained serious nerve damage and experienced incontinence, pain, and suffering. Correction of the damage required three major reconstructive surgeries, fifteen additional less serious procedures, 60 days in the hospital, and a hundred different visits to the doctor. It was nothing like what he had bargained for.
Robert sued Dr. Dunne in the District of Columbia Superior Court. Experts consulted by his attorneys argued that the procedure chosen by Dr. Dunne was improper, and that he should have instead recommended and performed a transurethral prostate resection, which is less invasive and has no chance of causing rectal lacerations. They also censured Dr. Dunne for making the mistake during the surgery and for failing to recognize it, arguing that if Dr. Dunne had identified the mistake right away, it could have been repaired immediately. Cohen & Cohen
The trial lasted for three weeks. Dr. Dunne’s attorneys tried to argue that Robert’s injuries were unrelated to any negligence on the part of Dr. Dunne and claimed that the procedure he chose was appropriate. They also tried to claim that the failure to recognize the damage was not a violation of the standard of care. The jury didn’t buy it. After six hours of deliberation, they returned a verdict of $8 million for medical malpractice against the urologist.