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Bizarre medical malpractice lawsuits: Trips to the hospital that took a detour to the courthouse

Bizarre medical malpractice lawsuits: Trips to the hospital that took a detour to the courthouse

They say the practice of medicine is an art. They don’t say that about the practice of law, but the two are closely intertwined where malpractices are concerned. In medicine, as in law, malpractice may result in serious consequences, lawsuits, and reputational damage. They may even result in head-scratching and unintentional hilarity, as in these cases.

The two-year-old complaint

Surgeons are humans too, and committing errors when performing manual surgery is actually quite common. But some errors — as well as the circumstances surrounding them — are just odd, as in Oregonian Thomas Illk’s case.

In 2012, Mr. Illk went to Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center to undergo a knee replacement surgery for his right leg. The anesthesiologist, however, initiated the procedure by performing a nerve block on his left leg (the one that was just fine), which led to the surgeons beginning the operation on the wrong leg.

Fortunately, the anesthesiologist and the surgeons realized the mistake earlier on, and the right knee was ultimately the one that was replaced. Almost two years later, Mr. Illk decided to file an $825,000 suit against the hospital for causing him “pain and suffering.” Note that a nerve block typically wears off within two to three days and is generally not life-threatening.

In this scenario, which (or who) is more bizarre: the patient who complained about a medical error committed two years earlier or the medical practitioners who made a seemingly amateurish mistake?

The answer lies on a little thing called statute of limitations for medical malpractice. In the state of Oregon, where the incident happened, the statute of limitations is within two years from the date of the discovery of the injury, but no more than five years from the date of the malpractice.

In Washington state, a medical malpractice claim must be made within three years from the date of the malpractice, or within a year of finding out about the injury.

Sued for “giving a hand”

Nothing could have prepared Virginia doctor Tad Grenga for the absurdity waiting for him at the surgery department of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital one uneventful workday in 1997.

A construction worker by the name of Thomas Passmore, who had a history of psychiatric disorder, believed he saw the sign of the devil inscribed on his hand, compelling him to slice it off. He initially consented to have his hand reattached, upon the advice of his psychiatrist who told Dr. Grenga that the patient was in his right mind to give consent.

Later on, Mr. Passmore withdrew his consent and threatened Dr. Grenga, as well as the hospital, that he will sever the bedeviled hand again if they reattach it.

Dr. Grenga then reconsulted the psychiatrist who said that Mr. Passmore was mentally stable enough to give or withdraw consent.

But Mr. Passmore really didn’t want his hand back! Moreover, the judge consulted by Dr. Grenga and the hospital said that the doctor could be charged for criminal assault and sued for civil liabilities if he performed the operation against the patient’s will — despite the fact that reattaching the hand was in the patient’s best interest.

Mr. Passmore then sued Dr. Grenga and the hospital for not reattaching his hand. According to him, they should never have trusted his request because he was psychotic.

To the shock of no one, the jury ruled in favor of the righteous Dr. Grenga.

The patient who had a lot of nerve

Complications and risks aren’t unusual in a hysterectomy and a variety of other medical procedures. As a patient, you have every right to file suit against doctors who not only fail to warn you of these risks but also cause them due to incompetence. One of the times when you shouldn’t is when you don’t actually experience complications.

Shelly McDougal of West Virginia sure didn’t. In 1992, Ms. McDougal brought suit against Dr. Julia McCammon for her “permanent and disabling nerve damage” resulting from a hysterectomy procedure performed by Dr. McCammon.

It must be noted that when one has “permanent and disabling nerve damage,” one typically experiences difficulty carrying out simple tasks, as one’s body is affected from the hands to the feet.

Video surveillance that showed Ms. McDougal squatting, carrying heavy boxes, and basically doing things that a person suffering from neuropathy could not disproved her claims.

Clearly, she had recovered from her illness and the procedure. But it probably took longer to recover from the damages brought about by the video evidence against her.

Complex medical surgeries should only be performed by qualified surgeons. Similarly, making a claim for significant injuries calls for personal injury attorneys like Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams.