On May 7, 2015, a Pennsylvania medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $1.5 million after a three-day trial, for a restaurant owner’s loss of his sense of taste following a tonsillectomy. The plaintiffs, husband and wife, had sued the oral surgeon who had performed the surgery, alleging both medical negligence and the lack of informed consent. The jury’s verdict was based solely on the lack of informed consent claim.
The 40-year-old plaintiff had suffered repeated episodes of tonsillitis over a period of four or five years. He then went to the defendant oral surgeon on September 1, 2009, for evaluation. The surgeon found very cystic tonsils and scheduled the man for surgery. The tonsillectomy took place on September 14, 2009, immediately after which the plaintiff had no sense of taste yet had a constant metallic taste in his mouth.
The plaintiffs filed their Pennsylvania medical malpractice case against the defendant oral surgeon and his ear, nose, and surgery practice, alleging that the oral surgeon was negligent in the performance of surgery that caused nerve damage and resulted in the man’s loss of taste, as well as a count for informed consent, alleging that the defendant had failed to obtain the man’s informed consent for the “simple” surgery by failing to advise him regarding the risks, complications, and alternatives to the surgery, including the risk of nerve damage and the possibility of losing his sense of taste. The man’s wife claimed loss of consortium due to her husband’s injuries.
The Pennsylvania medical malpractice jury’s verdict was intended to compensate the plaintiffs for past and future embarrassment and humiliation as well as the man’s past and future loss of ability to enjoy the pleasures of life. The plaintiff, who was not only the owner of a pizzeria but also cooked at his restaurant, alleged that he also suffered from depression and anxiety due to his injuries.
Loss of the sense of taste following tonsillectomy is extraordinarily rare, with few reported cases in the medical literature. A possible cause is direct or indirect damage to the glossopharyngeal nerve or its lingual branch (LBGN) (other possible causes are a lack of dietary zinc or habitual drug intake). The loss of sense of taste following tonsillectomy may be reversible within two years of the surgery, but it may be irreversible. “Therefore, tonsillectomy should be performed with minimal trauma to the tonsillar bed … and such a patient should be informed of the risk of post-operative taste disturbance after tonsillectomy as being one of the rare complications of this surgery.”
If you or a loved one may have suffered serious injury (or worse) as a result of a surgical procedure, your injuries may be due to medical negligence and you should promptly find a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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