The Plaintiff’s wife, 46, a certified medical assistant, underwent a Whipple procedure, which is a well known procedure to remove the head of the pancreas when there is suspicion of pancreatic cancer. The procedure was performed at the Hospital by a surgeon and another doctor.The plaintiff alleged a major vein was torn and repaired during the whipple procedure and she was then taken in for a second surgery because of resulting complications. She subsequently died that evening and it was later discovered that she did not have pancreatic cancer.Her husband then sued both doctors and the hospital for medical malpractice,misdiagnosis and wrongful death.
The plaintiff contended that the surgery was a complex operation best undertaken by a surgeon who has done it numerous times in a hospital that does at least seven Whipple procedures per year.He claimed the procedure was done at this particular hospital only a few times a year. The plaintiff noted that a facility that performs the procedure less than seven times a year is considered a low-volume center, and that the doctor had performed the surgery only three times in his career before his wife’s surgery.The plaintiff disputed the decision to blindly try to dissect the portal vein from the posterior of the pancreas with a right angle clamp. He claimed this resulted in a major tear of the vein, and the vein is responsible for taking blood from the gut to the liver and flows at a rate of one liter per minute. Consequently, the plaintiff contended that it was negligent to use a clamp in an area without direct observation of the vein and the failure to do so resulted in a major bleed and ultimately the complications that led to his wife’s death.The plaintiff also argued that while the defendants had reasonable suspicion that his wife had pancreatic cancer and that surgery performed was not incorrect, she should have been referred to a major facility to undergo the surgery.The plaintiff also contended that the assisting doctor did not correctly voice concerns during the procedure, though the decision-making was the chief doctor’s. The defense noted that while ultimately it was discovered that there was no metastasis, there were pre-cancerous cells in the pancreas which would have progressed to cancer without intervention.The defense contended that the surgical technique followed by the surgeons was within the appropriate standard of care. The defense argued that the injury which occurred was a recognized complication of the procedure, and the plaintiff’s expert conceded it was a recognized complication.The defense asserted that 42 percent of Whipple surgeries continue to be done in community hospital settings and that both defendant physicians were board-certified general surgeons who had performed Whipple surgeries successfully in the past. The defense contended that referral to a high-volume center would not have reduced the risk of a recognized complication.Plaintiff’s counsel also noted that the defense contended that is impossible to always see the back of the pancreas and a surgeon needs to rely on his experience and tactile sense.The patient died following the Whipple procedure. She was 48.The plaintiff sought recovery for wrongful death and emotional distress damages for the loss of his wife.The jury found the lead doctor 80 percent negligent and that his negligence was a substantial factor in causing damage. It found the assisting doctor also negligent and apportioned 20 percent to him, but the jury found that his involvement was not a substantial factor in the patient’s death.The jury awarded the plaintiff $4.2 million in damages broken down into the past financial support that his wife would have contributed to the family of $45,040, past losses of gifts or benefits that the plaintiff would have expected to receive from his wife of $10,765, past household services that she would have provided of $26,453, future financial support that she would have contributed to the family of $378,288, future losses of gifts or benefits that the plaintiff would have expected to receive from hiss wife of $97,986, future household services that she would have provided of $480,676, funeral and burial expenses of $2,600, the loss of her love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society and moral support and the enjoyment of sexual relations of $500,000 and the loss of Kath Hansen’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society and moral support and the enjoyment of sexual relations from the date of the verdict forward of $3 million.
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