Jury Awards Woman $2.397 Million After Surgeon Misdiagnoses Cancer, Performs Emergency Surgery; T. P. v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Dr. Michael A. West

We look to our surgeons in emergencies when we are in pain and need intensive medical attention. Surgeons must obtain written consent from the patient before any operation. The surgeon should fully explain the procedure and perform only what he or she explained to the patient.

Those steps were not followed in the case of T.P., who was awarded $2.397 million by a Cook County jury in a suit against Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Dr. Michael A. West, who performed surgery on her in 2006. T.P. underwent emergency surgery for treatment of cancer when all she actually needed was bed rest and antibiotics.

This case was reported in the July 13 edition of the Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter.
T.P. came to Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group complaining of flu-like symptoms on Aug. 14, 2006 following a recent trip to Jamaica. She was sent by ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she remained for 30 hours. Her condition improved there, but Dr. West, then the hospital’s chief of trauma surgery, decided she might have cancer based on what he considered an unusual appendix on a CT scan. He conducted no biopsy or pre-surgical work up and never told T.P. of his tentative diagnosis.

After obtaining only her consent for an appendectomy, Dr. West removed substantial portions of T.P.’s large and small intestine. T.P. actually had only gastroenteritis after eating raw fish in Jamaica, and she needed bed rest and antibiotics.

During the surgery, Dr. West removed part of T.P.’s cecum, which is a pouch in the lower abdominal cavity that receives food from the small intestine. He did not obtain a frozen section of the cecum.

The plaintiff’s attorneys argued that if T.P. did have cancer, the proper surgery should have been the removal of her ascending colon, which is part of the large intestine. Dr. West also removed a portion of the plaintiff’s omentum and then decided she might have early Crohn’s disease and removed a portion of her terminal ileum. This resulted in permanent bowel frequency. He then joined the ileum and colon together.

Meanwhile, a resident, Dr. Michael Monge, improperly sutured the ileum to the skin of the abdomen. This created tension on the earlier incision, which ruptured nine days following the surgery. T.P. developed sepsis and underwent emergency surgery to save her life.

Another doctor at Northwestern, Dr. Marie Crandall, performed an emergency laparotomy and ileostomy, which reroutes the contents of the small bowel into an exterior ostomy bag glued to the skin. This surgery revealed the errors made during the first surgery but caused further problems because the ileostomy was too near the laparotomy incision, leading to difficulties in adhering the ostomy bag as well as spillage of fecal matter into the surgical incision, causing intense pain and skin abrasions. The ileostomy was reversed 8 weeks later.

In addition to extensive medical expenses, T.P., an occupational therapist, claimed she lost $42,000 because she was unable to work. She also contended that the hospital and Dr. West had committed medical battery by performing unauthorized surgery on her. Apparently the hospital investigated Dr. West’s surgery but took no action against him and did not change policies or procedures.

The jury found against the doctor and the hospital on the charges of medical battery and medical negligence. T.P.’s attorneys report that the hospital has agreed not to appeal the jury’s verdict. The attorneys also report that Dr. West is now at San Francisco General Hospital.

T.P. was awarded the following damages:

— $1 million for pain and suffering,
— $650,000 for loss of normal life,
— $500,000 for emotional distress,
–$160,000 for past and future medical expenses,
–$75,000 for disfigurement,
–$12,000 for lost income.

Tanya Purevich v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Dr. Michael A. West 08L-90475

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois medical malpractice matters for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas including Dolton, Merrionette Park, Palos Hills, Oak Lawn, Elk Grove Village, and Grayslake, Ill.

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