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Medical Verdicts


Trichloroacetic acid used at colposcopy

December 2004 · Vol. 16, No. 12

<court>Cobb County (Ga) State Court</court>

During a colposcopy, a 24-year-old woman experienced a severely painful burning sensation, prompting the physician to halt the procedure. Investigation revealed the medical assistant had handed the physician trichloroacetic acid rather than acetic acid with which to swab the cervix.

This error, according to the plaintiff, led to vaginal burns, permanent injury to nerves inside the vaginal wall, and chronic painful spasms during intercourse.

The patient sued the gynecologist, citing negligence in not checking the bottle of solution prior to application; the medical assistant, for supplying the doctor with the wrong chemical; and the health plan that employed the assistant.

The physician argued it was the medical assistant’s responsibility to have proper materials ready for the procedure.

The assistant claimed that infection and other problems present prior to the colposcopy—not the trichloroacetic acid—caused the patients’ injuries.

  • The jury returned a defense verdict for the obstetrician, and awarded the plaintiff $500,000 against the medical assistant and the health plan.

The cases in this column are selected by the editors of OBG Management from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of the editor, Lewis Laska, of Nashville, Tenn (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.

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