Physician wins legal battle against the surgeon

  • Posted on: April 13, 2023

A physician was diagnosed with anterior mediastinal tumor. The surgeon performed median sternotomy and thymectomy. During the procedure it was discovered that a big mass extended up to the arch of aorta, completely engulfing the left phrenic nerve.

The surgeon had to make a difficult decision of resecting the left phrenic nerve.

The operation was successful but the physician-patient lost ability to speak due to resection of the nerve – he suffered left cord palsy. Thereafter he consulted a Japanese surgeon who performed another procedure that helped in partial recovery.

The physician sued the surgeon and made pointed allegation that he ought to have sent the mass for HPE and an informed consent should have been taken.

Citing medical literature, the Commission observed that to completely excise the tumor, surgeon had to sacrifice phrenic nerve as leaving a part of tumor could have endangered patient's life.

The Commission also observed a glaring lapse on part of the surgeon, as it stated the following:

“It is pertinent to note that the patient was a doctor himself, but he was not informed about the post-operative complications of nerve injury, which is likely to cause loss of voice and restricted diaphragm movements. Moreover, in our view, the operative procedure was an accepted reasonable standard of practice, but not having a proper informed consent amounts to negligence per se”.

The surgeon was ordered to pay a sizeable compensation to the physician.

Source: Order pronounced by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on 1st December, 2022.