Trial Continues in Duke Hospital Medical Malpractice

Trial Continues in Duke Hospital Medical Malpractice

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Trial Continues in Duke Hospital Medical Malpractice

 An article posted May 7 covered the continuation of a medical malpractice trial in Durham, N.C. where Duke University Medical Center is a defendant.  According to the article, the plaintiff sued the hospital after she had surgery to remove a small portion of her intestine to help treat chronic constipation.  After the surgery, the plaintiff complained of bloody fluid coming from her vagina, and the doctors discovered that her intestine was not reattached to her rectum, but to her vagina.  Although the plaintiff did not suffer any permanent physical damage, she claims that because of the mental and emotional stress of the mistake, she began to suffer blurred vision, weakness on her left side, and impaired speech.

The plaintiff filed suit in 2011, but Duke initially succeeded in getting a judge to dismiss the case.  However, an appeals court disagreed, reviving the case in 2013 and ruling that based on the facts alleged in the complaint, even a layperson would be able to determine whether or not negligence occurred.  The appeals court stated that it is “common knowledge” that “intestines are meant to connect with the anus, not the vagina, even following a surgical procedure to correct a bowel problem.”

 Conversion Disorder

 The article indicated that the plaintiff is claiming that her symptoms were a result of functional neurological symptom disorder, also called conversion disorder.  Conversion disorder is precipitated by mental or emotional stressors, and presents itself physically in a variety of ways, including weakness, paralysis, seizures, involuntary movements, and/or sensory disturbances such as impaired vision.  This condition is named as such because the mental or emotional crisis “converts” to a physical problem.

The appeals court that reinstituted the lawsuit noted that “it requires no expert testimony” to understand that “feces are not meant to be excreted from the vagina” and that this would not ordinarily occur “in the absence of a negligent act or omission during a surgical procedure.”  As the attorney stated in his opening statements, the jury will have to decide whether or not, absent negligence, there is any explanation other than the negligent conduct of the doctors for why the plaintiff is experiencing the above mentioned physical symptoms.  However, the challenge here is proving damages – that the conversion disorder resulted from the mental and emotional stress caused by the hospital’s negligent conduct.

 Assuming the Risk

 In a medical malpractice suit, doctors or hospitals may try, as a defense, to prove the patient consented to the procedure knowing the risks involved.  If successful, this defense may absolve the defendants of any liability.  In this case, the attorneys for the Duke University Medical Center argue that the gastric surgery at issue is complex and that bowel leakage is a “known risk factor.”  However, for this defense to be proven, the attorneys for the defendants must show that the plaintiff understood and accepted the risks involved, and for patients with no medical training, this defense is difficult to substantiate.  Additionally, even if the patient understood the risks, it does not absolve instances of gross medical negligence.

If you believe you have been injured by the negligent actions of a doctor or a hospital, the attorneys at Bice Law, LLC, can help you seek compensation for your injuries. Contact us today to consult regarding your case.

Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm of Bice Law

The personal injury firm of Bice Law will examine your case to determine the type and amount of damages that your injury warrants, including payments for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability.  We’ll determine whether an out-of-court settlement or trial is the best strategy to obtain maximum benefits for you or your family. If you have suffered injury or harm because of someone else’s actions, take the first step to protect your legal rights – contact the personal injury firm of Bice Law serving both North and South Carolina. You only have a limited time after your injury to file a claim, so act quickly.  Call (855) 500-BICE today or submit an online request  to get a free consultation with a  personal injury attorney. We serve families across both North Carolina and South Carolina.

 

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