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Court: Medical malpractice lawsuit given go-ahead

A Superior Court in Pennsylvania sided with a woman who is suing a doctor over a 1999 sterilization procedure that led to a pregnancy and a 2001 hysterectomy. The court felt the woman's medical malpractice case should proceed without time constraints for emotional damages.

The court agreed that the plaintiff could sue the physician for doctor error and use the expert testimony of an obstetrician gynecologist. The board-certified women's health expert is expected to dispute the doctor's surgical methods used during the sterilization.

Court records say the woman's doctor used two different methods to sterilize her. The physician apparently noticed that a Filshie medical clip was not holding the right fallopian tube properly. The doctor performed a second procedure that did not employ the clip, but limited the surgery to the right tube.

The plaintiff's expert testified that the doctor's inconsistency during the sterilization operation breached a standard of care. The medical expert's testimony had been dismissed in a lower court, but was revitalized by the Superior Court.

The woman became pregnant. An abortion was performed after it was discovered the child suffered from abnormalities. The baby's congenital problems did not stem from the sterilization. Following the abortion, the woman became anemic and hemorrhaged. She underwent a complete hysterectomy. The patient sued the doctor and the New Castle hospital where the sterilization took place.

The court agreed that the case could move ahead as a medical malpractice action. The decision affects the possible outcome of the case because a jury award for non-economic damages would not be confined to the six-week period surrounding the abortion.

A medical mistake can result in serious consequences for a patient. Physicians who make errors due to negligence may be required to compensate a victim for damages. Errors in surgery, with the diagnosis of a patient and or through a harmful prescription recommendation are mistakes that can result in substantial jury awards in civil court.

Source: post-gazette.com, "Pennsylvania Superior Court panel allows unrestricted damages in botched sterilization case," Ben Present, Nov. 12, 2012

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