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Comment and Controversy

It’s unclear what, exactly, juries base their decisions on

August 2008 · Vol. 20, No. 08
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Every month I am amazed, shocked, and distressed—and, occasionally, reassured—by the cases presented in your Medical Verdicts column. The May installment was no exception. Missed meningitis? According to the case description, the high-risk ObGyn failed to detect streptococcal meningitis in a 46-year-old woman pregnant with twins, and both the woman and the twins died—but the defense verdict suggests there are more details than were reported.

Contrast that with the case of trocar injury to the right common iliac artery during diagnostic laparoscopy. From the details presented, it sounds as if this was a known complication of surgery that was appropriately handled. The $312,645 verdict would seem to indicate that this was not the case—or, at least, that that is what the plaintiff ’s attorney convinced a judge or jury to believe.

There appears to be no consistency in jury verdicts, and that is what makes us fearful to practice in this environment.

Patricia S. Thayer, MD
Houston, Texas

Editors’ note: The two cases to which Dr. Thayer refers are, respectively: Escambia County (FL) Circuit Court, Case No. 05-CA-527; and Hamilton County (TN) Circuit Court, Case No. 99-217.

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