Sadly for my client, a routine procedure on her husband of 51 years turned out to be anything but routine. The planned procedure was to have lasted a mere 15 minutes. But when a urologist failed to heed a major red flag during the procedure, the surgery ended up lasting for hours.
My client’s husband was to have a catheter tube placed through his lower abdomen directly into his bladder so that he could urinate. When performing this procedure, the surgeon must insert first a guide tube and then a larger surgical tube to create the hole for the catheter tube. The standard of care requires the surgeon to confirm the return of urine when these tubes are placed. By seeing urine, the surgeon can then safely proceed with the placement of the catheter tube. If the bladder cannot be located this way, the patient must be opened up or imaging studies performed to locate the bladder.
In this case, the surgeon did not get a return of urine when he inserted the surgical tube. Instead of stopping, he continued to thrust the sharp surgical tube, trying to find the bladder. Inevitably, instead of urine returning, blood began shooting out the end of the tube. The surgeon had damaged a major artery in the lower abdomen of his patient.
Additional surgeons had to be called in to help the urologist repair the damaged blood vessel. During all of this, the patient lost almost half of the blood in his body. When the surgery was complete, he was transferred to an intensive care unit where he passed away several days later.
The defenses raised by the urologist were ridiculous. First, he changed the wording of his own operative report to make it sound better. He also claimed the assisting surgeons had also made a mistake in their operative reports. Next, he claimed that this happened because of irregular anatomy due to previous surgery. But he was the surgeon who performed this previous surgery, so he was already on notice of this fact. Finally, he tried to blame his patient by claiming that he told him not to open up his abdomen, even though this important wish was not documented anywhere in the doctor’s records.
The case eventually settled on the eve of trial when the doctor and his insurance company knew that the case could not be defended at trial. The settlement was confidential.