On August 1, 2016, a South Dakota medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the defense, clearing the defendant surgeon of a claim of medical negligence leading to his patient’s death. The South Dakota medical malpractice jury deliberated for over four and a half hours before handing the widow a defeat in her claim that her husband died because his surgeon breached the standard of care in treating him.
The plaintiff alleged in her South Dakota wrongful death lawsuit that her 66-year-old husband had undergone gallbladder removal surgery performed by the defendant surgeon on June 15, 2012 during which the defendant inadvertently perforated her husband’s bowel. It was not until the following day that the perforated bowel was discovered and the defendant surgeon performed further surgery in an attempt to repair the man’s injured bowel.
Despite the second surgery, the man’s condition continued to deteriorate. The defendant surgeon performed a third surgery eleven days after the second surgery, on June 27, 2012, during which he removed a portion of the man’s bowel.
The man did not appear to respond favorably to the third surgery, leading to his family insisting on June 28, 2012 that the man be transferred to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. A fourth surgery was performed on July 5, 2012 during which it was discovered that the man’s bowel was continuing to leak. The man succumbed to his medical condition on July 23, 2012. His death certificate listed the cause of death as multi-system organ failure caused by surgically-induced sepsis.
The defense told the South Dakota medical malpractice jury that a bowel perforation is a known risk of gallbladder removal surgery and that the defendant surgeon did not breach the standard of care when the man’s bowel was unintentionally perforated during the initial surgery (“Sometimes bad things happen to good people. They just do.”). The defense attributed the eleven-day delay between the second and third surgeries to the man’s pre-existing heart condition, his pneumonia diagnosed on June 23, and the low blood pressure the man experienced during the second surgery.
During closing arguments to the jury, the defense attorney also attacked the plaintiff’s medical expert who testified at trial that the defendant surgeon had breached the standard of care, characterizing him as a hired gun from Miami (the plaintiff’s medical expert is the head of the laparoscopic surgery department at the University of Miami).
In a study published in 2001 involving 1,190 consecutive patients who had laparoscopic cholecystectomy between April 1992 and June 1999, seven patients (0.6%) suffered bowel injuries, three of which were due to careless technique and two were due to dense adhesions.
If you or a family member were seriously injured as a result of medical malpractice in South Dakota or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a South Dakota medical malpractice lawyer or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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