Vaginal Defecation Suit Will Go to Trial
(CN) - Doctors must face a trial after attaching a woman's intestine to her vagina, an appeals court ruled, finding no need for an expert to testify about defecation.
"It requires no expert testimony to understand that feces are not meant to be excreted from the vagina and that such an injury does not ordinarily occur in the absence of a negligent act or omission during a surgical procedure," the ruling states.
Linda Robinson had undergone surgery at Duke University Medical Center after she presented with severe constipation and colonic inertia. The doctors were supposed to remove part of her small intentine and reattach it to her rectum with a surgical stapler.
One day later, Robinson complained that bloody fluid was coming out of her vagina. It was then discovered that her small intestine had been attached to her vagina, rather than her rectum.
A second surgery corrected the issue, but Robinson was left with blurry vision, speech difficulty, erratic hand movement and weakness on her left side. She was diagnosed with conversion disorder, a psychiatric problem related to conflict or stress.
After Robinson and her husband sued Duke University Health Systems for medical malpractice, a judge in Durham found that the case must be dismissed because of the lack of a prefiling review by a medical expert.
The Robinsons appealed, arguing that the res ipsa loquitur doctrine makes such an expert finding unnecessary in this case.
A three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals agreed and remanded the case for trial.
"Defendant's argument that res ipsa is inapplicable in the present case because it does not involve either a foreign object left in the body following surgery or an injury to and area far away from and completely unrelated to the zone of surgery is without merit," Judge Doug McCullough wrote for the court.
The ruling also bars the Robinsons from seeking punitive damages because the defendants' actions were not "willful, wanton, malicious or fraudulent," according to the ruling.
Judges Ann Maria Calabria and Sanford Steelman both concurred only in result, with Steelman issuing a separate opinion.