By Dawn Collins, JD
Wrong ovary removed
A 35-year-old Oregon woman with 5 children was evaluated by her ob/gyn for a history of worsening right-sided pelvic pain. An ultrasound revealed a complex cyst on her right ovary and a normal-appearing left ovary. The gynecologist recommended a diagnostic laparoscopy with removal of her right ovary, which the patient underwent in 2011. During the operation the physician found no cyst on the patient’s right ovary, but found cystic and inflammatory problems affecting her left ovary, significant adhesions on the left, and abnormalities on both Fallopian tubes, which he removed. After surgery the patient’s right-sided pain worsened and she presented to the emergency department (ED) 2 days later. An ultrasound revealed that her left ovary had been removed, and the right was still intact. She subsequently had her right ovary removed 5 months after the original operation.
The patient alleged that she endured emotional distress and premature menopause. She sued the ob/gyn, alleging he was negligent in removing her healthy left ovary rather than her cystic right ovary.
The ob/gyn argued that he provided informed consent for the diagnostic laparoscopy and included the information that any abnormal tissue would be removed if it was found on either the right or the left side.
The jury returned a defense verdict.
This case illustrates the importance of obtaining informed consent for any procedure to be performed, but especially diagnostic procedures in which the actual abnormal pathology, if any, is unknown prior to the operation.
The case was successfully defended by showing that informed consent was obtained, that it included the removal of any abnormal tissue, and that it was documented in the medical record.