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The Most Interesting and Famous Medical Malpractice Cases in History

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The Most Interesting and Famous Medical Malpractice Cases in History

Deutsche Fotothek‎ [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de], via Wikimedia Commons

Being a victim of medical malpractice can be a scary ordeal, especially when it involves extreme negligence. Here are some of the most unusual and interesting medical malpractice cases ever recorded, some of which have dramatically changed the face of health care over the years.

The Case of the Mutilated Penis

A Romanian doctor named Naum Ciomu was performing a delicate operation on a male patient when he suddenly became stressed and hacked off his penis. The doctor then proceeded to place it on the operating table, and then hack the penis into tiny pieces in full view of operating room staff. After he was finished, he reportedly stormed out of the operating room.

The doctor cited “personal problems” for his emotional outbreak. He was ordered to pay 100,000 pounds in damages in addition to 20,000 pounds for reconstructive surgery and had his medical license suspended. Ironically, other Romanian doctors felt making the doctor pay damages out of his own pocket was too harsh. They believed he had been punished enough by having his medical license suspended, and claimed he had simply “overreacted” during the penis hacking incident.

A Rod is a Rod

Arturo Iturralde underwent back surgery to have titanium rods inserted in his spinal column. During the surgery, the attending physician, Dr. Robert Ricketson was unable to find the rods needed to complete the operation, so he improvised by removing the handle from a nearby screwdriver and inserting it into the man’s back instead. Only a few days later, the screwdriver rod broke, resulting in extreme pain and the need for several other back operations before the man passed away two years later. After his death, Iturralde’s survivors brought a malpractice suit against the physician, and were eventually awarded $5.6 million in damages.

The “Surgeon of Love”

Numerous women were drawn to the practice of Ohio gynecologist Dr. James Burt in the 1970s and 1980s, partly because he promised them “pain free births.” What he didn’t tell them was that after giving birth, he planned to “reconstruct” their vaginas in an effort to increase their sexual responses. Several women reported waking up two and a half days after giving birth and being in extreme pain.

Dr. Burt published a book titled Surgery of Love in 1975, in which he admitted performing operations on women without their consent. Several women were unable to have sex afterwards because doing so caused intense pain, and many suffered repeated urinary tract infections as well. The Ohio State Medical Board eventually caught up with Burt, and lawsuits totaling $21 million were eventually filed.

Risk of Fire Possible

When having an organ transplant, most people never think about being burned in the process. That’s exactly what happened to a Vancouver, Canada man in 2005 while undergoing a liver transplant. It seems that the man’s heart stopped beating during the surgery, at which time an emergency procedure was started. The disinfecting alcohol used on his skin prior to that procedure caught on fire, causing him severe burns to his head, neck and shoulders.

To make matters worse, Reeves required an additional surgery six months later to remove a broken sterna wire from his chest cavity. His initial liver transplant also failed, requiring him to undergo another one in 2007. In an ensuing lawsuit, the patient claimed the doctors attending to him failed to provide him with a reasonable standard of care, thereby causing his burns as well as the need for additional surgeries.

The Butcher of South Beach

Reinaldo Silvestre had a lucrative cosmetic surgery practice, until the day he was visited by a bodybuilder who was looking for pec implants. Since he didn’t have any pectoral implants, Silvestre improvised by implanting the man with women’s breasts. Upon waking up from his surgery, the patient discovered what had happened, but the surgeon who had performed the operation was nowhere to be found.

A manhunt for the doctor soon ensued, and what happened next was even more shocking. Apparently Silveste was not a doctor at all, and used animal anesthetic and spatulas in performing his botched operations. He had also videotaped several of his surgeries, including the bodybuilder’s. Silveste was apprehended in Belize five years later, where he was also working as a doctor in addition to teaching medical school. He was charged with two criminal counts, and pleaded guilty in exchange for a seven year prison term.

You’re a Witch, Doctor

Psychologist Letitia Libman, who was also a practicing witch, took the term “witch doctor” to the extreme. Libman required several of her patients to draw pentagrams as part of their therapy in addition to obtaining DNA samples to use in spells. She allegedly had sex with her patients and encouraged them to mutilate themselves as well. Her extreme therapy sessions led to at least one patient trying to commit suicide and then filing a lawsuit against the hospital for damages. The patient filing the lawsuit declined to bring charges against Libman, claiming she had turned her into a witch as well. The woman also stated she was afraid of Libman, and had moved to North Carolina to avoid being under her spells.

You can Call me Mother

Another female psychologist is accused of using a male patient in an unusual game that eventually led to him committing suicide. Paul Lozano suffered from depression, and visited Dr. Margaret Bean-Bayog of the Harvard Medical School for treatment. Her treatment involved convincing the man he was an infant and that she was his mother, in addition to numerous sadomasochistic sex sessions. After Lozano’s death, his family sued the doctor for $1 million in damages, and Bean-Bayog lost her license to practice medicine.

Wrong Point of Exit

A Texas woman named Sarah Wallace went to the hospital to give birth prematurely and was given an episiotomy to help facilitate matters. Unfortunately, Ms. Wallace also suffered a rectovaginal fistula during the birth as well. Rectovaginal fistulas are holes torn in the wall that separates the rectum from the vagina. It is standard practice for doctors to check for fistulas before sewing up an episiotomy, but that did not happen in this case. The result was that the patient began passing stool from her vagina, thereby causing fecal incontinence. The doctor who made the oversight was served with a lawsuit, the outcome of which is unknown.

Burn Baby Burn

William Morrison thought he was doing the right thing by getting himself checked for the Human Pappillomavirus (HPV) after his wife tested positive for it. Apparently, the only way to get checked for this virus is to have a solution containing 3-5% acetic acid applied to the penis. What Morrison received was actually a solution containing 72% acid, which caused him severe burns, extreme pain, and long-term psychological suffering.

A lengthy lawsuit ensued, during which time it was also discovered that the nurse who administered the acid solution to Mr. Morrison had previously done so to another patient. Although damages were awarded, the courts ruled there was not enough evidence to show gross negligence on the part of the clinic, nurse or attending physician. As a result, Morrison was unable to collect punitive damages.

These famous medical malpractice cases are shocking, and go to show that wrongdoings can happen any time and any where. To avoid becoming a victim of malpractice, you should perform diligent research on the doctor, clinic and staff members and ask plenty of questions beforehand. Should you find yourself a victim anyway, speaking with a medical malpractice attorney could be needed if you are to recover your damages.

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