Unnecessary Surgery: The Importance of One Good Hand
My client Mike Wood was a victim of unnecessary surgery and also a lack of proper informed consent. A backhoe operator and outdoorsman in southern Maryland, Wood went to an emergency room one night with chest pain. After it was proven not to be a heart attack, the ER doctors had a surgeon see him, because they couldn’t get a blood pressure in his left arm. Wood told the surgeon he’d had that for years and it didn’t seem to affect his ability to use his arm, which was pink, warm and functioning right down to his wiggling fingers. The surgeon said the main artery feeding the arm was blocked and it needed to be reamed out and possibly have a stent put in. The surgeon told the patient that if he delayed the surgery, “you might not be so lucky next time.” With these ominous words ringing in his ears, the patient signed the consent form.
The surgeon, Dr. James Tzeng, operated a week later, using a “cut down” approach through the armpit that required him to cut around the nerves that fed the same arm. The patient woke up with excruciating pain in the arm. It turned out the nerve controlling hand function had been deadened by a retractor blade.
Now Mike Wood cannot operate his backhoe or drive his Harley motorcycle, because he had a surgery he didn’t really need, from a surgeon who used the wrong approach because he lacked experience in a safer technique. A more experienced, skilled surgeon was available in the same doctors’ suite, but the surgeon didn’t refer to his colleague because he would have lost Mike’s business and would have received no fee.
Mr. Wood’s case went to trial in Prince George’s County Circuit Court. The jury found the doctor liable for malpractice – both for using the wrong surgical technique and for failing to get Mr. Wood’s informed consent. Read more on our track record page. The verdict is small comfort for Mr. Wood, who would rather have a functioning pain-free hand.
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