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Doctor brands woman's uterus
January 29, 2003 7:43 AM   Subscribe

Doctor brands woman's uterus with his alma mater's initials during surgery. And if doubt the claim, you can watch a video of the operation.
posted by Pinwheel (63 comments total)

 
"Means's lawsuit notes that since she and her husband were apprehensive about the surgery, Guiler filmed the procedure and gave the couple a copy of the videotape"

Wow... that takes a special kind of stupidity...
posted by twine42 at 7:46 AM on January 29, 2003


I saw this on television yesterday. From what I took from that show this is typically done and not meant to cause embarrassment at all. It just so happened that this doctor chose those letters as his symbol. I am curious to know however if it is true that it is common practice for a procedure such as this Mefi Doctors?
posted by SweetIceT at 7:48 AM on January 29, 2003


Wow... that takes a special kind of stupidity...

Or a special kind of inebriation.
posted by Pinwheel at 7:49 AM on January 29, 2003


"dr. quonsar was here"
posted by quonsar at 7:49 AM on January 29, 2003


all your uterus are... ow... ow.. stop hitting me...
posted by PenDevil at 7:51 AM on January 29, 2003


"John 3:16"
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:52 AM on January 29, 2003


He probably marked it so the person watching the video knows which organ he's working on. If he had "branded" it with an "X" would it made a diffrence?
posted by stbalbach at 7:54 AM on January 29, 2003


Š†β
posted by stbalbach at 7:55 AM on January 29, 2003


Today's news story, in which the doctor says this is a "routine" part of any hysterectomy. Never having done one myself, I can't speak to that claim, but I gotta wonder: if the operation wasn't filmed, who would know or care what was branded or written on any body part which was going to be thrown away?
posted by yhbc at 7:56 AM on January 29, 2003


Guiler, who used a cauterizing instrument to brand "UK" on Stephanie Means' uterus, said the letters marked the organ's midline and distinguished its left and right side.

"Not only am I always able to remain oriented for the patient's safety, I felt this was honorable since it made reference to the college of medicine where I received my medical degree," he said in the statement, which he read to reporters.



and

Means filed suit last week, claiming she suffered emotional distress after viewing a videotape of last year's operation. She and her husband are seeking unspecified damages.

money-grubbing, frivolous lawsuit. this is one of the reasons we have such a malpractice-insurance problem right now.
posted by damn yankee at 8:02 AM on January 29, 2003


Kilroy was here
posted by blue_beetle at 8:03 AM on January 29, 2003


"money-grubbing, frivolous lawsuit."
While it may be that Ms. Mean is an opportunist using this as an excuse to get money, it seems far more likely that she actually is upset, whether her feelings are justified or not, and brought the lawsuit for that reason. Since you don't know, you should not assume she is "money-grubbing." As for the lawsuit being frivolous, if it is it will be dismissed rather quickly. A frivolous lawsuit is one with no basis in law or a reasonable extension of existing law. It can be dismissed based on the complaint alone, without even filing an answer or beginning discovery. Another reason there is no real need for tort "reform" unless you are a "money-grubbing" corporation trying to boost profits by protecting yourself from liability.
posted by Outlawyr at 8:12 AM on January 29, 2003


Question for you all.... the offending brand, and the organ it was attached to was removed correct? Thus it stands to reason it becomes medical waste, and wasn't the patient. Can you be sued for marking medical waste?

Granted it might be poor planning to mark it as it sits IN the woman... but it's still medical waste.
posted by KnitWit at 8:15 AM on January 29, 2003


What amazes me is if this had been my uterus and I had it surgically removed, if I had known about the branding, I would have been curious about the particular letters chosen for the branding, but would have assumed it was some arbitrarily chosen letters or some sort of code for medical terminology. I would no longer have the uterus and it would have never occured to me to sue for such a thing..I guess I am just not astute enough to make myself rich.
posted by SweetIceT at 8:20 AM on January 29, 2003


money-grubbing, frivolous lawsuit indeed.

If the organ was removed, why does she care? It's like getting a hair cut and then being upset with what happens to your hair after it's swept up. What kind of emotional damage could this cause in an emotionally stable person to begin with? Even if the organ was left in, again, who cares!!! Who's going to see it? She would never even know if she hadn't seen the video. And is the doctor so stupid that he committed a wrong-doing, filmed it and then showed it to the victim. More likely he did nothing wrong.

Two things for perspective. As mentioned above, branding organs is a common procedure to keep surgeons oriented and it lets them keep track of which side of the organ they are inspecting/working on. Also, this was all over the tv news the other day. Other patients of this same doctor basically said "He could have tatooed the face of Hitler on my uterus for all I cared. I was sick and dying and in horrendous pain and he healed me."
posted by archimago at 8:22 AM on January 29, 2003


He should've cut a deal with Nike and artfully singed the Swoosh logo into the organ. Branding meets branding.

[I'll leave it to someone else to Photoshop that...]
posted by stonerose at 8:23 AM on January 29, 2003


money-grubbing, frivolous lawsuit. this is one of the reasons we have such a malpractice-insurance problem right now

Are you insane? The doctor branded his school initials on a woman's internal organs.

Maybe he'll be able to explain how this isn't as bad a it looks, but that's a decision for the court and jury.

On preview: refusing to understand how a person could be upset by this is baffling. "She would never even know if she hadn't seen the video." Yeah -- who cares what doctors do to patients while they are unconscious and helpless? As long as nobody finds out, what's the harm?

Free the molesting dentists!
posted by Mid at 8:27 AM on January 29, 2003


Personally, I like my internal organs branded with trendy tribal designs...
posted by KnitWit at 8:27 AM on January 29, 2003


So the jury is still out. Where's the professional (informed medical) Mefi opinion on this one?

Was this "branding" routine, or was the Dr. in question pissing, like a dog, to mark his territory?
posted by troutfishing at 8:28 AM on January 29, 2003


Reminds me of the internal-organ tattooing in Et Tu, Babe.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:30 AM on January 29, 2003


I don't see anyone discussing the doctor's frivolous use of surgery time. That's the issue for me--this woman's under (I assume) general anesthesia. Her husband is waiting nervously outside the operating room, praying she'll come through the operation alive. And the doctor is fooling around, demonstrating his skill, writing things on her uterus while it's still inside of her.

OK, maybe the doctor's excuse makes sense, that it's a routine procedure to keep him oriented. If that's not the case, however, he needs to be penalized, financially and professionally, for his arrogance.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:36 AM on January 29, 2003


It is typical for surgeons to mark organs that are removed in some way. This is not only to keep them oriented during surgery as this guy claims, but (perhaps more importantly) so that the pathologist can properly orient the specimen while it is in a tray in the lab. This is especially important in cancer surgery when the surgeon may need to resect more tissue if the tumor is close to the edge of a specimen. Typically this marking is done with a suture, but there is nothing wrong with using the electrosurgical unit. For those who have never been in the OR it is often a surprisingly lighthearted place and this sort of thing happens more often than you might expect (often with the patient's knowledge and consent). I think the patient in this case obviously suffered no physical harm, but the surgeon probably did not do a good job of explaining his behaviour. It has been shown (but I can't find a link right now) that the personality of a physician is a good predictor of malpractice claims. I wonder if that is a factor here?
posted by TedW at 8:42 AM on January 29, 2003


"As long as nobody finds out, what's the harm?"

In this case a more pertinent question would be - "If there's no harm, what's the harm?"

The woman is an idiot.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:53 AM on January 29, 2003


OK, maybe the doctor's excuse makes sense, that it's a routine procedure to keep him oriented. If that's not the case, however, he needs to be penalized, financially and professionally, for his arrogance.

and

Are you insane? The doctor branded his school initials on a woman's internal organs.

Maybe he'll be able to explain how this isn't as bad a it looks, but that's a decision for the court and jury.


*sigh*

did you even read any of the articles covering this story?

Kim Alumbaugh, chairwoman of the Kentucky chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said some surgeons rely on stitches, burn marks or other identifiers before removing an organ.

if this doctor has an actual brand made up with his alma mater's initials on them, it's not likely this incident is something he did as a prankish lark. some may argue that his particular choice of brand is somehow disrespectful, but those arguments seem to rely on the belief that the branding itself was unneccesary, so that argument is pretty much out the window.
posted by damn yankee at 8:57 AM on January 29, 2003


At the very least, it does not show a lot of class on the doctor's part. It also can be seen as trivializing a fairly serious operation. Show a little respect, please. I think his actions should bring some kind of reprimand from the local AMA, but no lawsuit. Her lawyers are going to have a hard time convincing a judge and jury that harm was done.
posted by monkeyman at 9:00 AM on January 29, 2003


on preview, maybe i'm misunderstanding the actual nature of the branding tool, and it's not like a stamp, but more of a tool that can be used to make any shape or pattern.

but i still think the whole thing is silly.
posted by damn yankee at 9:01 AM on January 29, 2003


and thanks, TedW, for what appears to be a more informed perspective on the surgery environment than the rest of us have.
posted by damn yankee at 9:02 AM on January 29, 2003


As Ted pointed out, it's common practice to mark the organ for orientation. However, the physician should have taken into account the fact that his patient might not appreciate his light hearted behavior when she viewed the tape. Another incident where a practitioner forgets about the jumble of neurons attached to his project. Oh, it's a cauterization tool - not a branding iron.
posted by rotifer at 9:05 AM on January 29, 2003


Oh, it's a cauterization tool - not a branding iron.

thanks, rotifer.
posted by damn yankee at 9:08 AM on January 29, 2003


TedW: This is possibly the study you're thinking of. Abstract only, I'm afraid. Full JAMA articles are not available on-line without subscription.

Basically, what the researchers found was that physicians who were perceived by their patients as having a poor bedside manner (abrupt, kept patients waiting, didn't answer questions, etc.) were the most likely to be sued. No, it's not because they were bad physicians: the researchers compared charts from rarely-sued vs. often-sued physicians, and couldn't find any differences in patient care.

Certainly, physicians shouldn't be rude to their patients. But the supposed purpose of malpractice litigation is to compensate patients for actual medical errors, not to punish rudeness.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:14 AM on January 29, 2003


The guy needed two arbitrary, but distinct symbols. An "X" and "Y" wouldn't look all that different, but a "U" and a "K" are quite different. Sure he could have used "R" and "L" but he's a big UK fan and he's got to keep all his procedures strait in his head. At UK med school they may even teach students to us the letters U and K. His only mistake here was not explaining that to the patient better!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:21 AM on January 29, 2003


the surgeon probably did not do a good job of explaining his behaviour

I'd bet that even if he DID do a good job of explaining, the patient either didn't really understand him because she was worried about the impending surgery or she just didn't care when she saw the video because it seemed so wrong (or ripe for a lawsuit). I have heard a doctor say to a patient's mother "Good news, your son will be fine, and he's very lucky because this sort of illness can sometimes leave the patient needing a heart transplant, but your son is going to recover just fine on medication alone", and had the patient's mother get hysterical when I asked if she understood because her son needed a heart transplant. Selective hearing is something well-known to medical professionals, and there's only so much you can do about it - you can explain as clearly as you can, then ask if they understand and have any questions, but beyond that there's not much you can do. This woman would have had the surgery and any important details explained to her (whether the branding was an "important detail" or not is unknown, given that most people probably don't get a video of their surgery, it seems possible that this is something the surgeons don't necessarily include as a standard part of their pre-op schpiel - also remember that those on the inside of a profession which is somewhat opaque to outsiders often don't fully realise which things will appear unusual to a layperson), and she would have signed paperwork to that effect. So even if the surgeon didn't explain it, that doesn't imply some kind of evil afoot. And why didn't she just call and ask about it when she saw the video?

I agree that this sort of thing is why malpractice insurance is insanely expensive - people think they know enough to identify wrongdoing, but really most know just enough to be dangerous. TedW is right about this marking being standard procedure as far as I know, and these days surgeons mark the area/limb of the patient with a pen while the patient is still awake, so that the patient can see and confirm that they'll be operating on the right spot. Shockingly, sometimes surgeons doing this will draw a little picture along with their initials! Like a smiley face! Such inhuman contempt for their patients must be stopped!
posted by biscotti at 9:22 AM on January 29, 2003


This case will be thrown out by the judge.
posted by moonbiter at 10:22 AM on January 29, 2003


I still don't understand what there is to get so emotionally upset about. If the branding caused no physical harm or created other medical problems, and you cannot see the organ inside of you, nor can anyone else walking down the street, then what is the big deal?

It seems to me that this woman is trying to slime off of that lawsuit last year where the doctor carved his initials into a woman's stomach after performing a C-section. An entirely different scenario, but similar enough so that she may be thinking she can ride that precedent to the bank.
posted by archimago at 10:24 AM on January 29, 2003


I still don't understand what there is to get so emotionally upset about. If the branding caused no physical harm or created other medical problems, and you cannot see the organ inside of you, nor can anyone else walking down the street, then what is the big deal?

The big deal would be that a persons' body is the ultimately personal space; and thus not an appropriate place to leave *unnecessary* tags, doctor or no doctor.

Are the tags in their present form a established part of the operation? This is what the court has to decide - but in my opinion it is a pretty good question.

This without bringing into the picture that fact that while doctors can indeed be light-hearted, the removal of a women's uterus is generally a turning point in her life. You want to do jokes, choose a better time, pal.
posted by magullo at 10:37 AM on January 29, 2003


and you cannot see the organ inside of you,

Even harder to see the brand when the organ has been removed and tossed out with the other medical waste. :D

Personally, I don't see what the big deal is. If I have to have a major organ removed for health reasons, once it is removed, I can work on getting healthy again ... and the doctors can play kickball with it for all I care.
posted by Orb at 10:43 AM on January 29, 2003


Slithy_Tove: That is indeed the study I was thinking of; thanks.

these days surgeons mark the area/limb of the patient with a pen while the patient is still awake, so that the patient can see and confirm that they'll be operating on the right spot

In our hospital we have the patients do their own marking and they often draw a smiley face or leave a humorous note such as "cut here" with a dotted line. (OK, not great humor, but still...)
posted by TedW at 10:48 AM on January 29, 2003


For those who have never been in the OR it is often a surprisingly lighthearted place and this sort of thing happens more often than you might expect...-TedW

Agreed. I just had a c-section a few weeks ago, and I was awake for it. (Heavily doped up and with an epidural...but awake nonetheless.) And I tell ya, compared to the 26 hours of labor where everyone was tiptoeing around and turning my Led Zeppelin CD's down, and not letting me eat or drink anything and telling me not to worry...which just made me worried, the OR was a welcome bit of bright lights and humor. (Ok, after 26 hours of labor, I'm pretty sure I was just happy to have the drugs...) But the point is, I was so stoned I was cracking jokes, the techs were cracking jokes, only the people behind the curtain were not cracking jokes. Honestly, the surgery part was the best part of the whole delivery process.

And it resulted in this...and who wouldn't be tickled with these kinds of results. ;)
posted by dejah420 at 10:48 AM on January 29, 2003


If the branding caused no physical harm or created other medical problems, and you cannot see the organ inside of you, nor can anyone else walking down the street, then what is the big deal?


There are a few things professionals don't screw around with, money and medical problems among them. A hysterectomy is an involved procedure with rather serious emotional ramifications for many women. Considering this, the doctor fucked up and, I hope, he knows it. Being a good physician is a delicate balance between disassociating yourself from the patient and caring for their needs - tough job. But, using "L" and "R" rather than your school's initials is a no brainer man.
posted by rotifer at 10:54 AM on January 29, 2003


Maybe he can change it into a little happy dancing man.

Two points if you can place that reference.
posted by mmcg at 10:57 AM on January 29, 2003


magullo - no tags were left in the woman's body. He used the mark for legitimate surgical purposes. The uterus has been removed. So this man is being sued for malpractice, not because he caused any harm, not because he performed the procedure incorrectly, but because of his choice in an insubstantial couple of symbols.

rotifer, that's bullshit. This is the first woman of all the hysterectomies that's given a shit.

You know, some people in this world have to deal with, gasp, real problems. This suit is ludicrous.
posted by kavasa at 11:04 AM on January 29, 2003


the doctor fucked up and, I hope, he knows it. Being a good physician is a delicate balance between disassociating yourself from the patient and caring for their needs - tough job. But, using "L" and "R" rather than your school's initials is a no brainer man

Disagreement. For starters, if every surgeon uses "L" and "R", there's no way to identify in the lab what surgery the organ came from on the off-chance that labels are mixed up (which is what happened with a breast cancer patient recently) - if each surgeon uses a unique marker (which ALSO happens to indicate left and right and up and down), there's less chance of this happening (whether this is standard practice or not, it is most definitely NOT malpractice). Besides that, the uterus is no longer in the woman, it's not like she's walking around with a mark inside her, her uterus is medical waste after pathology gets through with it. And there's no reason at all for this to be a lawsuit, there was no malpractice, there was no disfigurement, it's ridiculous. On preview, what kavasa said.
posted by biscotti at 11:13 AM on January 29, 2003


"the doctor fucked up and, I hope, he knows it."

I would lobby you that there is a vast gulf between "fucking up" and failing to account for how stupid and litigious people can be. The operation went as planned, was done using established procedures, and was 100% successful.

No, he did not fuck up. The woman is an idiot. Let's get some perspective here. The victim in this case is the doctor who is being sued.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:27 AM on January 29, 2003


magullo, thank you.

This surgeon doesn't need to be sued, but I certainly hope he is reprimanded, unless this can be proven to be common procedure. I find this very disrespectful. I don't wnat to imagine my doctor meddling around inside me during surgery, carving initials and whatnot, even if the organ is to be removed and discarded. It is inappropriate. I cannot see any real need for doctors to have their own "special" brand if they need to brand the organs. If the hospital can't keep track of those organs, than they have bigger problems on their hands.
posted by agregoli at 11:55 AM on January 29, 2003


(1) The lawsuit is not for malpractice. It is for outrageous conduct and battery. The outrageous conduct claim means that a jury of 12 people gets to decide whether the doctor did something beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior. The lawyers, court, and judge will get to think about the very issues we're discussing here and decide whether the woman has been injured. This is pretty much exactly how a legal system should work. The fact that you disagree with the woman's claims does not mean that there is something wrong with the legal system -- it means that if you were a juror, you would vote against the claims.

(2) The fact that the operation was successful, or that doctors need to use markings in surgery, does not explain away the fact that this guy marked the organ in a manner that reasonable people could find inappropriate given the seriousness of the surgery. Calling a person "stupid" or "litigious" because their particular threshold of inappropriateness is different than your own (especially when it wasn't your fricking organ) is wrong.
posted by Mid at 11:59 AM on January 29, 2003


physical harm or created other medical problems, and you cannot see the organ inside of you, nor can anyone else walking down the street, then what is the big deal?

The big deal would be that a persons' body is the ultimately personal space; and thus not an appropriate place to leave *unnecessary* tags, doctor or no doctor.


Good to see that neither of you actually read the article before commenting on it.
posted by Hildago at 12:27 PM on January 29, 2003


Good response, mid. All reasonable and stuff.

I would posit that some people's threshold for "inapropriate" is, to put in the parlance of our times, wack. Requiring that, by federal law all women are to wear burqas seems unreasonable to me.

Nonetheless, for the sake of argument, let's grant that using the initials of his alma mater is somehow less respectful of a defective organ than using L and R.

Show me how the doctor was to have known this. Considering that he's apparently a guy that's done a lot of hysterectomies, and considering no one has ever complained, how was he to know? Why would it even occur to him to ask this shrill harpy aggrieved woman whether she would care?
posted by kavasa at 12:33 PM on January 29, 2003


I apologize for the awful grammar of that post, and now wonder why I didn't examine it during preview. That being the point of preview and all.
posted by kavasa at 12:35 PM on January 29, 2003


"Calling a person "stupid" or "litigious" because their particular threshold of inappropriateness is different than your own is wrong."

I would agree with you if we were to magically eliminate the concept of relative merit. In this case it is her particular threshold of inappropriateness which is stupid. Feel free to get back to me when a jury decides it's not.

For me stupid includes suing over which two letters a doctor may label some medical waste.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:37 PM on January 29, 2003


this guy marked the organ in a manner that reasonable people could find inappropriate given the seriousness of the surgery.

I don't see what the seriousness of the surgery has to do with anything, either it's appropriate or inappropriate for the surgeon to mark the organ. And I also don't see that marking an organ which was being removed anyway in whatever manner the surgeon chose in order to facilitate accurate lab work could in any way be construed as "inappropriate" by a reasonable person. The organ is no longer part of your body, all a reasonable person would care about is whether the surgery went well and what the pathology results are, and anything which facilitates ensuring that there are no mix-ups in the lab should be acceptable, including physical marking of the organ with a unique symbol, whatever that symbol might be. A reasonable person would be glad that if the path lab called and said they had an unlabelled uterus with "KS" cauterized on it, that the doctor could say "that's Mrs. so-and-so's uterus".

Calling a person "stupid" or "litigious" because their particular threshold of inappropriateness is different than your own (especially when it wasn't your fricking organ) is wrong.

Their "threshold of inappropriateness" is unreasonable in this case, the organ in question is medical waste once the pathology tests are complete.
posted by biscotti at 12:40 PM on January 29, 2003


mmcg: kids in the hall. love that bad doctor; if only my doctor would fill me up with 100 cc of ....drugs?

i'm with most people on the reprimand over the lawsuit, since we're talking about a misunderstanding. the doctor shouldn't have been blazé about picking his school initials for the direction orientation guide, allowing the patient in her anxious state to interpret that as a possible fratboy symbol.

then there's the irony of language striking back: getting hysterical over a hysterectomy.
posted by myopicman at 12:42 PM on January 29, 2003


The fact that you disagree with the woman's claims does not mean that there is something wrong with the legal system -- it means that if you were a juror, you would vote against the claims.

The system has problems, not because it let this woman sue, but because it has set a precedent of awarding large sums of money in similarly absurd cases, thereby encouraging frivolous lawsuits.

When I was born, my placenta went to a high school bio lab, where it sat in a jar of formaldehyde for around 16 years until I found out and threw a fit. Do I get to sue the school?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:43 PM on January 29, 2003


You threw a fit over your placenta?
posted by tolkhan at 12:48 PM on January 29, 2003


I would want my placenta back. What happened to it after said fit was thrown?
posted by agregoli at 12:57 PM on January 29, 2003


I am indescribably envious of you, Ishmael. Having my placenta be the object of disgusted fascination by untold highschool students would be just... Wow. It would make my day to find that out.
posted by kavasa at 1:38 PM on January 29, 2003


"The system has problems . . . because it has set a precedent of awarding large sums of money in similarly absurd cases"

Care to give any examples? Please, use the McDonald's case as an example, since that was a completely legitimate case. Also, by definition, any case you can point to where the plaintiff won is by definition NOT frivolous. If it were frivolous it would have been dismissed.
posted by Outlawyr at 2:15 PM on January 29, 2003


The procedure was being videod for the patient and the Dr. knew it so we have another couple of possibilities:

1. the doctor was being a show-off, inappropriately burning his mark for the video

2. the doctor was performing the procedure as he usually does, and had little thought to the 'branding'

his procedure might be questioned but why would non-doctors dictate how the procedure are performed.
posted by DBAPaul at 6:09 AM on January 30, 2003


"For me stupid includes suing over which two letters a doctor may label some medical waste."

"The organ is no longer part of your body. . ."

Um, the ovary was still in her body. It's not "medical waste" when it's inside of your abdomen. When a doctor is operating inside of a person's body, the doctor has special obligations to treat the person with respect. This is hardly a radical proposition. The fact that the doctor is removing something (here, the ovary) is irrelevant to the standard the doctor must exercise when a patient trusts him to operate inside their body.

"And I also don't see that marking an organ which was being removed anyway in whatever manner the surgeon chose in order to facilitate accurate lab work could in any way be construed as "inappropriate" by a reasonable person."

Dude, there are all kinds of symbols that people would be pretty unhappy about seeing marked on their organs -- even if the organs in question were being removed. I'm sure we can think of some pretty offensive things that someone could doodle on an organ. Simply denying that a doctor could ever mark an organ with an inappropriate symbol doesn't really wash.
posted by Mid at 7:04 AM on January 30, 2003


Mid: (psst: it was a uterus, not an ovary). Your definition of "reasonable" and my definition of "reasonable" are pretty different then. I just don't see why someone would get upset about someone marking their about-to-be-removed organ, as is standard procedure, with initials (and I don't agree that it makes any difference whether this was done before or after removal, aside from in a medical sense, she went under anesthetic with a uterus, and woke up without one, as was the intent of the surgery, so what difference does it make?). What if he'd said that the "KS" stood for something else, made up some medical gobbledygook? Would that have been okay? It's not like he drew boobies or swearwords or inverted pentagrams (I'll grant you that something religious or otherwise could have been offensive). This caused no damage to the woman. She has no concept of what standard procedure is in surgery, and clearly no interest in finding out (one call to another surgeon to ask if this was outside normal procedure could have reassured her, but no, she opted to sue) and decided that her ignorance made a lawsuit worthwhile. The lawsuit is ridiculous: he didn't sexually abuse her, he didn't leave a hemostat inside her, he didn't scar her, he marked her uterus with his own mark to facilitate ite removal and accurate handling in the lab (something beneficial to the patient), the fact that she cares more about what initials he used than the fact that her surgery was a success speaks volumes about her. But we're not going to agree on this, I can tell.
posted by biscotti at 10:30 AM on January 30, 2003


I wonder how this would have played out had it been a woman performing the surgery instead of a man.
posted by agregoli at 10:53 AM on January 30, 2003


biscotti -- ovary/uterus; you say tomato... :)

I think a lot of what you say rings correct, and I think these will be great arguments for the doctor's lawyer to make. I think you are really missing something when you ignore the "working inside someone's body" principle I'm trying to articulate. Even if you're taking something out, even if the person is unconscious, even if you're healing the person and doing good, I think you're going to run up against the idea that you should be on extra good manners when you have someone cut open and at your mercy.

That said, I am sure doctors make all kinds of jokes, etc. during procedures, just as everyone makes jokes during their own work. And I don't think that doctors are evil for doing so. However, I don't think doctors should be surprised when non-doctors freak out if the doctors appear to act in a not-appropriately-serious fashion with an unconscious patient.

I'm a lawyer. We joke all the time about our clients. But we don't video tape our little fun moments and send them to clients!
posted by Mid at 12:46 PM on January 30, 2003


I understand what you're saying about working inside someone's body, but I think you're ignoring the vast difference between an organ about to be excised and an organ which is to remain in situ. The uterus will end up being incinerated, it would have ended up being incinerated whether the doctor marked it or not, the fact that he marked it with identifiable letters, which were put there to help the patient is a good thing, and of importance only to the doctor and the pathology lab. Again, it's not like he marked it with religious symbols, which one could construe as having some sort of ill intent. He marked it with two letters, that's it.

I don't think doctors should be surprised when non-doctors freak out if the doctors appear to act in a not-appropriately-serious fashion with an unconscious patient.

Nor do I. But I do think that suing over something like this is unreasonable. All the woman had to do was ask one other surgeon if burning initials into an organ about to be excised was standard or not, and if there was any protocol about what the letters should be. There is nothing inherently offensive about the letters K and S. She saw an opportunity to make some money and took it, and I bet that surgeon won't bother helping any other patients overcome their fears by offering them videotapes. This woman should get her priorities in order.
posted by biscotti at 12:57 PM on January 30, 2003


I don't know, maybe her priority WAS to make money...


But I'm seriously interested in whether this felt more like a violation because it was a man performing the surgery. That male "alma mater" sort of frat-boy feeling (which was mentioned above somewhere). I'm not saying that's valid for a lawsuit, but I'm curious. Do you think if a woman had performed the surgery and done the same that the woman suing would have done so?
posted by agregoli at 1:07 PM on January 30, 2003


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