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Medical Malpractice: Doctors Perforate Woman’s Intestine Then Fatally Cut Vein During Emergency Surgery

When a woman visited a local state hospital for a routine endoscopy, there was no reason to expect anything unusual. While a previous gastrectomy had altered the anatomy of her abdomen, the surgery was duly noted in her medical records. Unfortunately, the two gastroenterologists tasked with performing the procedure mistakenly assumed the woman had previously undergone a Billroth II reconstruction. This surgery leaves the stomach with two exits to the intestine. The woman didn’t have that second exit that the surgeons were searching for; the Roux-en-Y procedure she’d undergone left her with only one. Despite the endoscope’s resistance in the woman’s intestine, the gastroenterologists continued to push the scope further. Eventually, they forced the scope to tear into the woman’s intestine and perforate it.

After confirming the intestinal tear in a CT scan, one of the hospital’s trauma surgeons brought the woman to the ER to perform a very common, routine emergency surgery. Without referring to the CT scan, the doctor began to search the woman’s abdomen to repair the perforation. The tear, however, was seven inches to the left of where the surgeon made his incision. As he looked for the perforation, the surgeon severed a major vein in the woman’s abdomen that caused her to bleed to death on the operating table.

The woman’s husband was left reeling from the sudden loss of his wife right before their 40th wedding anniversary. He was confused and distraught about what had happened in the hospital that day but was certain it shouldn’t have happened. He sought out Ben Cooper, a partner at Cooper Elliott, to help him put all the pieces together and get justice for his wife.

Ben pored over the medical records and found evidence that the woman could have easily survived if the doctors who treated her had acted with due diligence. His primary medical experts included gastroenterologists and trauma surgeons who attested to the two distinct instances of medical malpractice. The Defense predictably denied this and claimed there was no way they could have known the differences in the woman’s anatomy with certainty.

That left Ben to show the difference himself. He approached DK Global to create an animation that demonstrated the full extent of the doctors’ mistakes. The video began with a visualization of a successful capsule endoscopy. The next visual features depicted how the gastroenterologists erred using side-by-side illustrations of the anatomy of the intestines following both a Billroth II reconstruction and a Roux-en-Y gastrectomy. A reenactment of the patient’s endoscopy then demonstrated how and where the gastroenterologists ripped through the woman’s intestine, juxtaposing the animation with the woman’s CT scan to confirm accuracy. Finally, the visualization showed the fatal errors of the trauma surgeon, from his first misplaced incision to the woman’s eventual death due to the severed vein.

While the Defense initially refused to settle in mediation, they reconsidered after examining the animation more closely. They returned with an offer of $900,000 just before the trial began. More important to the woman’s mourning husband, however, was the hospital’s agreement to discuss policy changes that could prevent a similar event from happening to anyone else.

Ben Cooper is a fastidious trial lawyer whose aim is to help his clients recover from life-changing harm such as wrongful death, civil rights, medical malpractice, legal malpractice, and complex business cases. He is a partner at Cooper Elliott and a 2022 recipient of the American Association of Justice Trial Lawyer Cares Award.

"It was worth that cost because the quality of the product was so much higher than the other companies that we were looking at."
Ben Cooper - Cooper Elliott
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