December 21, 2012
Court backs doctor in penis amputation caseby Brett Barrouquere
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky man lost his bid Friday to force a doctor to pay damages for removing a cancer-riddled section of his penis during what was scheduled to be a simple circumcision.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals found that a jury correctly concluded that 66-year-old Phillip Seaton of Waddy consented to allow Dr. John Patterson to perform any procedure deemed necessary during the Oct. 19, 2007, surgery.
Patterson, a Kentucky-based urologist, maintains he found cancer in the man's penis during surgery and that it had to be removed. The patient claims the surgery was supposed to be a circumcision and he never authorized the amputation, nor was he given a chance to seek a second opinion.
[Why was the cancer not found well before the circumcision had begun? Did nobody look under his foreskin earlier?]
"Additionally, there is uncontroverted testimony in the record that if Mr. Seaton were not treated for the penile cancer, it would prove fatal in the future," Judge Janet Stumbo wrote for the court.
Judge Michael Caperton dissented, but did not issue a written opinion.
Clay Robinson, a Lexington-based attorney for Patterson, said the opinion was "very well-reasoned" and fact-based. [Would the attorney for the doctor have been so laudatory if the decision had gone the other way?]
"You always appreciate when you see judges at any level go into that amount of detail," Robinson said.
Seaton and his wife, Deborah, sued Patterson, a Kentucky-based urologist, in Shelby County Circuit Court in 2008. Seaton was having the procedure to better treat inflammation. The Seatons also sued Jewish Hospital, where the surgery took place. The hospital settled with the couple for an undisclosed amount.
Both sides agree that Seaton had squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, in his penis. Patterson concluded that a tumor had overtaken much of the top of the organ, which made it impossible to insert a catheter.
"He also opined that serious complications and additional surgery could result if he did not insert the catheter," Stumbo wrote.
The main point of contention is whether Patterson acted reasonably in removing the organ immediately or if amputation could have been delayed to let Seaton seek other medical options.
Stumbo and Judge Donna Dixon concluded that, even though Seaton had limited ability to read and write, he never informed the doctor of that fact and signed the consent form in the presence of a witness. The Seatons claimed that the waiver didn't give Patterson authority to conduct an amputation without further consent.
"They maintain that no harm would have resulted if Dr. Patterson has consulted with either of them before proceeding, or if he had allowed them to consult with another physician to get a second opinion or other treatment options," Stumbo wrote.
Stumbo wrote that Patterson acted properly because the tumor had consumed such a large section of the organ.