DURHAM, N.C. (Legal Newsline) - A jury trial is set to continue Thursday in a medical malpractice case against Duke University Medical Center after one of its surgeons allegedly reconnected a patient’s intestine to her vagina instead of her rectum.
The trial, before Durham County Superior Court Judge R. Allen Baddour, will be webcast live and recorded on Courtroom View Network. It is expected to last up to two weeks.
Plaintiff Linda Robinson sued the medical center -- ranked nationally and No. 1 in North Carolina -- after she had surgery in 2008 to help treat constipation.
Dr. Christopher Mantyh, Duke’s head gastrointestinal surgeon, removed a small portion of Robinson’s intestine.
The day after surgery, Robinson complained of bloody fluid coming from her vagina. Doctors discovered that her intestine was not reattached to her rectum, as it should have been.
Robinson went under the knife again to properly reattach her intestine.
While she suffered no permanent physical damage, Robinson argues she has what is known as conversion disorder as a result of the subsequent surgery.
Also called functional neurological symptom disorder, conversion disorder is a condition in which a person shows psychological stress in physical ways. Basically, the condition starts as a mental or emotional crisis -- often, a scary or stressful incident of some kind -- and converts to a physical problem.
According to CVN, Robinson claims she suffers from blurred vision, weakness on her left side and impaired speech -- symptoms similar to individuals who have had a stroke.
“The basic component of this case that you’ll need to decide is whether or not, absent negligence, is there any explanation other than negligence for why Linda would have her intestines connected to her vagina,” Robinson’s attorney, Reynolds Williams of South Carolina law firm Wilcox Williams & Buyck PA, told jurors earlier this week.
Attorneys for the defendants argue the surgery is complex and that bowel leakage is a known risk factor.
Robinson initially sued in 2011, but Duke convinced a judge to throw out the case. However, a state appeals court disagreed and revived the case against the medical center, Mantyh and another doctor, Erich S. Huang, in 2013.
“As plaintiffs’ complaint asserts, it is common knowledge and experience that intestines are meant to connect with the anus, not the vagina, even following a surgical procedure to correct a bowel problem,” the appeals court wrote in its 46-page ruling. “Likewise, as plaintiffs’ complaint asserts, 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.
“Despite defendants’ attempts to employ medical terminology to the issue, the simple fact is that following her surgical procedure, Robinson’s intestine was left connected to her vagina, causing her to excrete feces through her vagina.”
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.