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The trial began this week for a man who went in for a circumcision and woke up without his penis. Um, yikes.
In 2007, Phillip Seaton, 64, of Waddy, Kentucky, went in for a routine circumcision to treat inflammation. During the procedure, his urologist, John Patterson, M.D., says he discovered a tumor and removed part of Seaton’s penis without consulting him or his wife, Deborah Seaton, who was in the waiting room. That sounds like a wise decision.
According to his testimony, the doctor did not seek the opinion of Seaton’s wife because she hadn’t accompanied her husband to previous office visits or into the pre-operation area before the procedure. Patterson said he found this unusual. "My impression was she would not be someone I would ask what he would want," he testified.
Right, because she couldn’t possibly have been just too busy at work -- or simply not worried about a routine procedure like a circumcision -- to go to every doctor's appointment. Clearly, as Patterson implied, she was someone who didn’t care about her husband’s welfare.
Seaton and his wife are now suing the Louisville physician, seeking damages for "loss of service, love and affection."
While Patterson maintains that he saved Seaton’s life -- a post-operative biopsy did confirm he had squamous cell carcinoma -- Seaton’s attorney argued that it was not a life-threatening emergency, and that the family should have had the opportunity to get a second opinion. Patterson also claims that he removed less than an inch from Seaton’s penis, and that the rest of it was removed by another doctor later.
As part of the defense, former head of Duke Medical Center's urology program, David Paulson, M.D., testified that Seaton’s sleep apnea made interrupting surgery to consult with Deborah “medically risky.” Paulson also said Patterson followed medical protocol for what he deemed a life-threatening situation.
Unfortunately for Seaton, the 12-person jury agreed, according to ABC News. The jury voted unanimously that Patterson acted appropriately by immediately removing the cancerous tip of Seaton’s penis. The jury also cleared Patterson of failing to get consent to perform the amputation.
Patterson defended his actions by saying, “What I saw was not a penis. What I saw was cancer.” He actually described it as resembling “rotten cauliflower” in his testimony. Still, did you even consider your patient’s full quality of life, doc? This so would not happen on Grey’s Anatomy where the sexy surgeons decided they had to save the cancer-ridden lung of an opera singer.
Honestly, unless he was going to die right there on the operating table, I see no reason why the doctor couldn’t have waited until Seaton woke up to discuss his options. And with his wife sitting unawares in the waiting room, it’s just inexcusable that Patterson didn’t talk to her first. The piece that confounds me, though, is if Patterson only took off only the tip, who removed the rest of Seaton’s penis -- at a later date -- and did Seaton agree to it? (He must have if that guy isn’t getting sued).
Even if Seaton had been woken up for a consult, it’s possible that he would have still ended up without a penis. But perhaps the doctor thought Patterson would have chosen death over amputation and, in that sense, did save his life. Either way, maybe it should be the patient’s right to choose. According to his brother, David Seaton, Phillip has been depressed and angry since the surgery. “The spark is gone out of his life. He used to be such a happy person.”