Appeals court hears arguments in penis amputation case

Judge says suit boils down to whether Frankfort doctor should have awakened patient to ask if procedure was OK

By Lindsey Erdody Published:

Opposing attorneys argued over a case before the Kentucky Court of Appeals Tuesday involving man whose penis was amputated, but there won’t be a decision for about two months.

When Phillip Seaton, of Waddy, went to Jewish Hospital for surgery on Oct. 19, 2007, he was expecting a circumcision, according to records of the case. However, the operation resulted in his penis being amputated.

Seaton sued Dr. John Patterson, a Frankfort urologist, in Shelby County Circuit Court in 2008 after the operation, saying it was not authorized given the vague consent forms.

Patterson claims the amputation was medically necessary after discovering cancer in Seaton’s penis, the records say. In order to remove the cancer, Patterson amputated Seaton’s penis. It was Patterson’s first time performing this operation.

The jury sided with Patterson, saying he exercised proper medical care and the case is being appealed. Seaton also sued Jewish Hospital, but settled for an undisclosed amount.

Seaton’s attorney, Kevin George, argued Tuesday that the consent forms weren’t specific enough, so even though Seaton signed the forms prior to the operation, it did not authorize a penis amputation.

George argued that the forms only allowed Patterson to perform other procedures that were medically necessary if there was an immediate threat to Seaton’s life. In this case, Patterson believed a penis amputation was reasonable and could not risk waiting.

“Every time a patient goes in, he’s going to have to sign that or he’s not going to have surgery,” George said. “The doctor does not get the right to do anything he wants, even if he considers it reasonable.”

While both sides agree there was cancer in the organ that needed to be removed, George argued that Patterson could have consulted with Seaton’s wife or stopped the surgery to wake Seaton up and discuss his options.

Patterson’s attorney, Clayton Robinson, argued that Patterson did what was needed to keep Seaton healthy, and Seaton’s wife was not designated to make medical decisions for her husband.

Judge Donna Dixon asked Robinson if there was another procedure that could have been performed on Seaton that could have prevented the penis amputation. Robinson said there wasn’t.

Judge Janet Stumbo asked Robinson about if there was an immediate threat to Seaton’s life.

“They could have stopped right there, woken him up,” Stumbo said. “Was it truly an emergency? I think that’s the question.”

Robinson said that closing the incision and stopping surgery would have risked further complications and could have been considered malpractice.

“He did what he thought he was authorized to do,” Robinson said.

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