Candace Thorsted, of Eugene, Oregon, brought a malpractice suit against a gynecologic oncologist who made a negligent surgical error during a procedure at a Springfield hospital. The complaint was filed against Dr. Charles K. Anderson, and the medical facilities of Willamette Valley Cancer Institute & Research and McKenzie-Willamette Center as defendants.
Thorsted originally visited Anderson complaining of pelvic pain and soon underwent surgery. Dr. Anderson used a surgical robot product made by Intuitive Surgical known as the da Vinci Surgical System. During the laparoscopic procedure to treat endometriosis, Thorsted incurred a cut leading into her rectum rather than her vagina, which has resulted in her needing further procedures that have left her with scarring and significant problems with bowel urgency.
Endometriosis is a disorder that may cause pain, particularly during the period of a menstrual cycle where accumulated uterine lining tissue expands outside of the uterus, then breaks down and causes bleeding. The problem can progress to cause pelvic tissue and organs to adhere to one another and ultimately cause fertility-related problems. Laparoscopic surgery uses a lighted tube to better view the internal region for surgery. The robot used from da Vinci Surgical allows surgeons to execute procedures by making minor incisions and offers an enlarged three-dimensional view within the body of the patient.
After incurring the injuries, another surgeon conducted a procedure to repair the problem. This required that a colostomy be created, which diverts bodily waste to a bag that is contained in the wall of the abdomen. Since then, Thorsted has had another surgery, yet is still suffering from the bowel urgency problems. Her claim seeks $3 million for coverage of medical costs, wages lost, and her reduced capacity to earn. The other compensation she seeks is for noneconomic damages including pain, suffering, emotional hardship, humiliation and losses of enjoyment. Thorsted will not likely obtain the award amounts she is pursuing because Oregon law places a limitation on noneconomic damage awards at $500,000.
This malpractice case is occurring just after the state recently had a significant ruling handed down by their Supreme Court that permits patients to pursue medical malpractice cases when negligence prevents them from possibly achieving a more positive outcome. This “loss of chance” provision was the result of a case involving plaintiff Joseph Smith, who saw a physician at Hood River Medical for a condition where the doctor failed to order an MRI in a timely manner that would have revealed a preventable condition. Had Smith received the proper treatment he would otherwise have had a 33% opportunity for total recovery, which is the average success rate.
Roughly 40 states have some variation of “loss of chance” legislation. Opponents say that this new basis of medical liability will lead to increased litigation, more physicians practicing “defensive medicine” and drive up overall healthcare costs.