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Montana woman awarded over $100,000 for surgical error


The prospect of undergoing major surgery causes some anxiety for most people. While most physicians perform surgeries with great care, things sometimes go wrong. And when something does go wrong, the results can be life altering. A Montana woman had this unfortunate experience recently, and it led to a medical malpractice lawsuit against her doctor.

The woman had been experiencing pelvic pain when she consulted with a gynecologist in Oregon in 2007. He recommended removal of her right ovary and fallopian tube. The woman consented to the procedure and the gynecologist performed a hysterectomy. Testing after the surgery showed that the ovary which was removed was healthy and functioning.

In 2011, after the woman moved to Montana, a doctor in Bozeman ordered a CT scan. The scan revealed that the Oregon gynecologist had left a plastic laparoscopy sheath in her abdomen, as well as extraneous coils used as birth control devices. The woman sued the gynecologist in federal court, alleging he was negligent in removing a healthy ovary and in leaving foreign objects in her body. This month, a jury concluded the gynecologist committed malpractice and awarded the woman $100,000 as compensation for physical and mental pain, and $10,500 for medical expenses.

Medical malpractice cases are complex and require expert testimony from at least one physician on behalf of the victim. The defendant doctor will typically also have one or more expert medical witnesses. In many cases there is more than one expert on both sides; in the case involving the Montana woman, seven doctors testified in all, including the defendant. Preparing the victim's own experts for trial, and cross-examining the defense experts, requires an attorney with a sophisticated understanding of medical issues.

Source: Mail Tribune, "Jury convicts gynecologist of malpractice," Sarah Lemon, Nov. 16, 2013

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