Neurosurgeon Faces Lawsuit After Patient Suffers Facial Paralysis
A prominent neurosurgeon is accused of advocating for a risky surgery and violating the patient’s consent leaving the patient with permanent facial paralysis according to a recent lawsuit that is being televised by CVN.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff suffered hearing loss due to a benign neuroma. The patient elected to have the neuroma removed surgically, but that was only because the doctor failed to inform the patient of a less-invasive and less risky surgery involving radiation therapy. The patient contends that the doctor failed to provide him an alternative and then downplayed the risks related to the surgery. Why would the doctor do that? Well, a surgical procedure is much more costly than radiation intervention.
The doctor is accused of misrepresenting medical facts in order to guide the patient toward a costlier surgery. The plaintiffs have a paper published by the doctor discussing the risks of facial paralysis during the same surgery. The doctor is accused of underselling those risks.
Patients can guide the if-then-elses of a surgical procedure. In this case, the plaintiff contends that he told the doctor that if there was any damage to the facial nerve, to stop the procedure immediately even if the tumor had not been entirely removed. The plaintiff contends that the doctor did not stop the surgery once it became clear that the facial nerve was damaged. Hence, the doctor is accused of violating the patient’s consent.
Is the consent more important than the alleged malpractice?
Yes. When a doctor removes a tumor, they don’t know how much healthy tissue is damaged by the cancerous mass. It may be that the tumor damaged the nerve and there was no way to protect the nerve or restore the nerve once the tumor was removed. So, in a lawsuit without a consent violation, it would be difficult to win simply on the merits of the allegations. However, the consent violation removes potential defenses from the defendant, and makes the matter a medical battery, and not a medical malpractice case.
Obviously, you cannot operate on a patient without their consent. So, if you do, it’s a lawsuit regardless of whether or not the patient was injured or the injury was the doctor’s fault. It’s easier to try a medical battery case than it is a medical malpractice case. In this case, proving the facial paralysis wasn’t a known complication of the surgery is probably too much to ask. However, if the patient had a signed consent that the doctor violated, that’s all they need to prove.
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