Inexperience and Incomplete Disclosure Contribute to Physician Liability in Recent Claim

Our Winter 2016 Case Review includes a case study about a claim filed against a urologist who performed a robotically-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy (RALP). It’s interesting – and instructive – for a couple of reasons. It not only calls into question the training and experience of the defendant, but also illuminates a failure of communication: the urologist did not disclose an error to the patient.

The plaintiff – a 58-year-old male with elevated PSA levels and a biopsy of the prostate gland that was positive for cancer – underwent the RALP after considering the treatment options and risks (impotence, incontinence and possible need for further surgery) presented to him by his physician and the defendant urologist. However, post-surgery test results were surprising: pathology reports indicated that “the entire prostate gland [had] not been removed.” In addition, the urologist failed to advise the patient about the results.

Ultimately, in order to attempt to remove the cancer, the patient (no longer under the care of the defendant urologist) elected to have additional procedures, including a non-FDA approved treatment in the Dominican Republic. Although incontinence and impotence were not present after the original surgery, the one completed by the defendant, they were experienced following the subsequent treatments. In the plaintiff’s complaint, he alleged that the defendant performed the surgery improperly, which led to the need to undergo the later procedures, which did result in injury.

For details about the case – including the full timeline of patient test results and procedures, explanations of operative reports and pathologies and specific questions related to the training and experience of the urologist – visit page 7 of our most recent edition of Case Review. The case study also includes a legal and risk management perspective on the outcome – $350,000 in damages paid to the plaintiff.