In 2013, a Washington man was diagnosed with an abdominal desmoid tumor that required surgical removal. The surgeon wanted a urologist to place a ureteral stent at the beginning of the operation.
On the day of surgery, a urology fellow arrived to perform the ureteral stent portion of the operation. In the recovery room, the patient experienced urologic complications, and signs of a urethral injury continued for several days at the hospital and for the next 6 weeks during postoperative appointments.
The patient sought treatment elsewhere at 6 weeks post-op and was immediately diagnosed with an obliterated urethra. Surgical repair consisted of a two-stage process, beginning with skin grafts from the inside of the mouth, then placing the grafts in place of the destroyed urethra. The incision was left open for several months while the skin graft healed. The next stage was closure of the penile incision, with 3 more months of healing required to complete the process. Despite the surgical repair, the patient was left with pain, disability, and disfigurement.
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The patient and his wife sued those involved with the operation and alleged the hospital failed to diagnose or treat the husband’s apparent injury even though medical records stated that the stent procedure had been “traumatic.” They also contended that no consent had been given for the fellow to operate on the patient. The jury found in favor of the patient and his wife, awarding the patient $6 million and his wife $2.5 million.
LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: In this malpractice case, the jury heard evidence that the patient’s wife was an anesthesiologist at the hospital where the operation was to be performed. Prior to surgery, she made specific decisions about which surgeons would operate on her husband and the fellow was not one of them. This led to the accusation of the lack of consent for the fellow to participate in the operation. In addition, during the discovery process of this case it was disclosed that the fellow had used a hemostat to dilate the patient’s urethra when he encountered resistance with the cystoscope. These particular claims, along with the horrific and lengthy repair process described, most likely led the jury to award the plaintiffs the $8.5 million.