Home >  News >  August, 2013

Duke Docs Who Attached Intestine to Vagina Must Stand Trial

Appeals court scoffs at claim that case is too complex for lay jury to grasp.

Published: August 27, 2013

The highly technical nature of most surgeries may make it challenging for laypeople to determine malpractice — as accepted legal doctrine holds — but some bodily functions are clear enough that just about anyone can make the right judgments.

So says the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which reversed a lower court's decision to dismiss a malpractice suit against Duke University Health Systems and 2 doctors who, after surgery to remove a section of small intestine, attached the plaintiff's intestine to her vagina instead of reattaching it to her rectum, according to an account in the (Durham, N.C.) Herald-Sun.

The hospital, along with Christopher Mantyh, MD, and Erich S. Huang, MD, had argued that the case should be dismissed because legal doctrine holds that most medical treatment involves certain risks and only an expert can determine whether a poor outcome rises to the level of malpractice. Dr. Mantyh, the chief of gastrointestinal and colorectal surgery at the hospital, performed the surgery, assisted by Dr. Huang, a general surgery resident.

Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson agreed, tossing the case, but that decision was overruled by the Court of Appeals, which noted that another judge had already refused a motion to dismiss and that "one judge may not reconsider the legal conclusions of another judge."

Further, the Court of Appeals said, despite the technical nature of surgery, it's "common knowledge and experience that intestines are meant to connect with the anus, not the vagina, even following a surgical procedure to correct a bowel problem."

The appeals court upheld Judge Hudson's decision to dismiss punitive claims, saying there was no evidence that the defendants' conduct was willful, wanton, malicious or fraudulent.

Jim Burger


Also in the News...

Senate Finance Committee Takes Aim at Concurrent and Overlapping Surgeries
Negligence Complaint Ties Lung Paralysis to Improper Placement of Regional Block
Surgeons Remove Thyroid Gland by Making 3 Small Incisions Inside the Mouth Underneath Lower Lip
Anesthesiologist Dealing with Fallout Following Racially Insensitive Facebook Post About First Lady
Bill Promotes Pricing Transparency and Protects Physicians From EHR Penalties
Donald Trump Picks Staunch Obamacare Critic Tom Price, MD, as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
Appendectomy Patients Don't Need an Overnight Stay

New to Outpatient Surgery Magazine?
Sign-up to continue reading this article.
Register Now
Have an account? Please log in:
Email Address:
  Remember my login on this computer

advertiser banner

Other Articles That May Interest You

Medical Malpractice: Lessons From the Insulting Anesthesiologist

She was caught on a smartphone mocking her sedated patient.

Medical Malpractice: Sedation, Sexual Assault and Surgical Centers

Protect your patients from caregiver abuse and the resultant lawsuits.

Medical Malpractice:EMRs Can Be Your Friend or Foe in a Lawsuit

Electronic medical records can trip you up in court.