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Doctor’s Mistake Costs Patient Most Of Small Intestine

When a patient goes to the doctor complaining of abdominal pain, they may not expect it to be something serious enough to require immediate surgery. If the surgeon says the procedure can wait and goes out of town, the patient may not think it is anything urgent. Unfortunately for a patient in Indiana, failing to follow the patient led to the removal of most of her small intestines.

If you suffered an injury during medical care or treatment in Philadelphia, Baltimore, or DC, the team of medical malpractice attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian are here to help.

Abdominal Pain and Surgical Consult

Michelle Wells Fischer was a special education teacher at the Greater Clark County Schools in New Albany, Indiana. On June 5, 2003, Fischer checked into the Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services complaining of abdominal pain. 

Dr. William H. Garner III, a surgeon, saw the patient and said surgery was needed to treat the issue and scheduled a surgery the next day. However, when Fischer showed up, Dr. Garner told her the surgery could wait. Garner left town for the weekend and did not seek surgical coverage for the patient. 

Over the next couple of days, Fischer’s condition got worse. Eventually, an emergency surgery was scheduled on June 8, 2003 at 2:30 a.m. It turns out, part of Fisher’s bowel was dying. Fischer had ischemic bowel disease and doctors had to remove most of her small intestine (average length of the small intestine is about 22 feet). 

Fisher later filed a medical malpractice lawsuit arguing her bowel would not have died if they had performed the surgery as originally scheduled. Medical malpractice cases in Indiana first have to go through the Indiana Malpractice Review System, which found in favor of Fischer’s claim going to trial. 

After a 4-day trial, the jury awarded $1.5 million in damages to Fisher. However, the award was reduced under Indiana’s medical malpractice cap law, which limited her award to $1.25 million. 

Long-Term Consequences of Short Gut Syndrome

Fischer now has short bowel syndrome, a condition caused by having most of her small intestine removed. Fisher continues to suffer consequences. The former runner and cheerleader may be unable to return to work. In a healthy adult, food generally passes through the digestive system in 6 to 8 hours. For Fischer, food only takes about 30 minutes to pass through her system. 

According to a local news article, Fischer takes medication daily and is weekend from not being able to get the necessary nutrition from food. She also has severe bloating. 

Intestinal Conditions and Diseases

A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in the digestive system, also known as the gastrointestinal, or GI, tract. This includes the intestines or bowels. Conditions and disorders of the GI tract include: 

  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Colon cancer
  • Stomach cancer

Doctors, including surgeons and gastroenterologists, are held to a certain standard of medical care. When a medical professional breaches the standard of care which causes injury, the doctor may have committed medical malpractice. 

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the injury victim can seek damages from the doctor or hospital. Damages can include medical bills, costs of continuing treatment, loss of income, and pain and suffering. 

Can I Recover Damages in a Medical Malpractice Claim? 

The medical malpractice attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian are committed to helping our clients obtain the financial compensation they deserve to rebuild their lives after a medical error. To discuss your injuries with a member of our legal team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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