surgeon canceled surgery went out of town woman lost intestine

Michelle was a 21-year-old special education teacher. She loved running and was a cheerleader. When she went to the hospital complaining of abdominal pain, her doctor told her she needed surgery and scheduled the procedure for the next day.

However, when the doctor re-examined Michelle the next morning, he decided to cancel the surgery. He said that based on new information, surgery was no longer necessary. The surgeon already had out-of-town plans for the weekend, so he left and did not procure any surgical coverage.

Unfortunately, the surgeon was wrong. Michelle needed surgery, and because of the surgeon’s failure to diagnose the problem, she needed to have most of her small intestine removed.

Her condition worsened over the next two days, and doctors feared she would die. Another surgeon was called to perform an emergency operation. Michelle had ischemic bowel disease, and her entire bowel failed before the operation. Other doctors believe that if the surgeon had operated on Michelle during the scheduled surgery, her intestines could have been saved.

Michelle’s medical malpractice attorneys argued that “the standard of care in the medical community says you either need to operate in a timely fashion, of if you don’t believe operating is the best option at a particular time, you need to continue to follow that patient. It’s not enough to just say no operation.”

When Michelle filed a lawsuit, an independent group of three doctors reviewed the case and allowed it to move forward, saying the facts were in her favor. At the conclusion of the trial, Michelle was awarded more than the $1.4 million she requested. However, because there was a state law limiting the damage in medical malpractice cases, she will receive $1.25 million.

Although the compensation can help with her medical bills and ongoing treatment, it cannot return the quality of life to which Michelle was accustomed. Most people have about 22 feet of small intestine, but because of the surgeon’s error, Michelle has just a few feet. As a result, her body digests food too quickly, and she is unable to get the nutrients she needs when she eats. The lack of nutrients makes her weak and constantly bloated. Her belly is so bloated that her young daughter often asks if she is pregnant.

Given the surgeon’s error, many people have said Michelle was lucky to survive. However, if the surgeon had performed his job with diligence, Michelle would likely not need to live her life with compromises and ongoing medical problems.

Source: News and Tribune, “Jury awards $1.5 million in medical malpractice suit,” Matt Thacker, Jan. 20, 2012

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