Woman develops sepsis, dies after hysterectomy
<court>Madison County (Ala) Circuit Court</court>
A 66-year-old woman underwent vaginal hysterectomy. She experienced no post-operative complications and was stable 1 week later at a follow-up visit. When she returned about 1 month later, however, she was despondent and failed to respond to questions. An exploratory laparotomy performed the next day revealed an aggressive infection. The area was debrided. Two weeks later, the patient died of adult respiratory distress syndrome and multiorgan system failure.
In suing, the woman’s estate alleged that the surgeon punctured her intestine during the hysterectomy, causing her to develop sepsis, which was detected too late.
The doctor denied that a puncture wound had occurred during surgery. The physician who performed the exploratory laparotomy also said there was no evidence of such a wound. The defense argued that the infection was a result of a rare and spontaneous bacterial infection, and claimed the patient died as a result of cirrhosis due to a history of alcohol abuse.
- The jury returned a defense verdict.
The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts (www.verdictslaska.com). While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.