Kentucky Man Loses Lawsuit Over Amputation of His Penis Without Consent

There is an interesting torts case of consent out of Shelbyville, Kentucky where truck driver Phillip Seaton, 64, sued after a doctor amputated part of his penis in what was supposed to be a simple circumcision operation. Dr. John Patterson insists that, upon examination, he found the penis to be infused with cancer and took the step in the best interests of the patient. A jury agreed and ruled for Patterson.

Generally, courts narrow limit the use of the emergency rule where doctors can forego getting the consent of the patient. It does not matter that such an unconsented to operation may have worked to the benefit of the patient. This was the case in Mohr v. Williams, 104 N.W. 12 (Minn. 1905), where Williams, an ear specialist, agreed to perform a surgery on Mohr’s right ear. However, in surgery, Williams decided that Mohr’s left ear was in worse shape and decided to switch ears. The operation was successful but the operation was not necessitated as a life threatening situation. In other words, Williams could have waited and secured the consent from Mohr. The court ruled in favor of Mohr and found that the operation constitutes battery since there was no evidence that the condition of the plaintiff’s left ear presented a serious or life threatening situation.

In this case, the doctor decided to amputate less than an inch of the penis in 2007 and the remainder of the penis was removed later by another doctor later.

The defense argued that Seaton’s life was in endanger and fast action was necessary. I am a bit skeptical about that claim. It is not clear that waiting a day or so would materially alter the situation, but then again I did not hear the expert testimony. The psychological stress of being presented with the amputation probably magnified the trauma for Seaton — as opposed to allowing him to seek a second opinion or at least make such a decision himself. Patterson’s lawyer insisted that his client stopped the cancer from spreading. Yet, that would indicate that doctors could act in most cases when they spot cancer in taking unilateral action of this kind. It comes down to the expert testimony which appears to have been somewhat limited in this just three-day trial.

News reports indicate that experts were divided on Patterson’s claim. Dr. David Benson testified that he thought that Patterson was wrong to take the action while Dr. David Paulson, a retired urologist and former chairman of urology at Duke University, agreed with Patterson. Benson testified that “The accepted standard of care would have been to do a dorsal slit, which he did, then biopsy it, and discuss it with the patient’s family.” That is more in line with Mohr and its underlying standard.

Seaton and his wife were seeking $16 million in damages for “loss of service, love and affection.”

One of the more interesting facts in the case was that Seaton has very limited reading skills and yet signed a fairly complex consent form. That consent form gave Patterson broad authority to deal with unforeseen circumstances during the surgery. I have been a long critic of these consent forms which seem to me to be over broad and little understood for patients.

What is also interesting is the fact that Seaton sought medical advice due to a burning sensation during urination. His penis was examined first by a GP and then referred to Patterson, who recommended a circumcision. No one flagged the possibility of cancer.

Finally, when people criticize the jury system as pro-plaintiff, they often do so with little actual exposure to jury verdicts. I often see jurors rejecting relatively strong claims and ruling for defendants. This is one such example. Even when presented with a horrific injury, the jury still transcended the initial shock to find for the defendant.

Source: HuffPo

Kudos: Holly Trogdon

34 thoughts on “Kentucky Man Loses Lawsuit Over Amputation of His Penis Without Consent”

  1. How much would the wife have sued for, if her husband had died of the cancer?

  2. “In this case, the doctor decided to amputate less than an inch of the penis in 2007 and the remainder of the penis was removed later by another doctor later.”

    Given that the entire penis was later removed, and assuming that that was medically necessary, it is hard to see how the man suffered any “’loss of service, love and affection’” based on the first doctor’s action (as opposed to suffering the loss because of the underlying problem). As with the Prof, I did not hear the evidence, but I suspect the jury perceived the plaintiffs to be gold digging.

  3. AY, 🙂 On another current thread (Ninth Circuit Rules) there is a link by one of the commenters to JudgePedia, their logo also uses a pillar. The Wisconsin bar will be suing them in in 3….2….

  4. If the Huffpo article is correct Dr. Patterson, the surgeon that treated him, didn’t actually examine his penis. If the had he would have seen a seriously malformed, cancerous member before they even got him on the operating table. That is, if the surgeon was truthful that his penis was so diseased to no longer even look penis-like under the foreskin, which he noticed only when he began the surgery. Patterson didn’t do his job or is lying about what he saw. Mr. Seaton’s lawyer should have done a better job by expanding the scope of the suit to include some form of bifurcated negligence claim, Patterson as well as the GP should have at least taken a look prior to the actual surgery IMO. There’s something fishy about this whole story. How could no one including Mr. Seaton not have noticed it looked like a diseased cauliflower? Someone just ain’t telling the truth.

  5. Some guy, perhaps an eye surgeon, or cancer of the eye doctor, said on some internet forum, perhaps while barking,

    “The only reason I can think of that might justify this action is if there is some immediate threat of metastasis that could be increased from the first surgery disrupting the area. However, these things aren’t my area of expertise. Also, I didn’t see that what I described is the case in the article.

    Assuming the above was the case, then you’ve got a lose-lose situation where you either remove the cancer to prevent metastasis and get sued for removing the penis, or wake them up and do another surgery later, then get sued because they have a metastasis. Of course, that’s all speculative. From what I actually read, looks like maybe someone had a tee time to get to and did it just to be quick about things.”

    FWIW, Other people, not even claiming to be doctors, thought it might have been a botched circumcision with the first amputation following to destroy evidence.

  6. culheath,

    Thats Georgia….where the real men have mustaches….and most of the women do too….

  7. If I were him I’d check into the possibility of becoming a transgendered lesbian. Are there community college courses on strap-on use in Kentucky?

  8. This operation should have been performed under local anesthesia, allowing the patient to give consent/nonconsent to the amputation.

  9. While we’re on the topic:

    Gretna LA cop who is already the subject of an excessive force case where a police dog bit off a man’s penis is now being sued by a man claiming the officer tasered him and his 7-year-old son during a traffic stop then beat him

    – from

  10. If Maggie Sims is a guy, it is of course, still misandry, and indicative of how our culture ignores or even encourages misandry, while punishing harshly misogyny.

    Oh! A guy’s penis was amputated Ha! Ha!

  11. Don’t know if Maggie Sims is a bot, or a guy, but laughing at this guy, if you are really a woman is terrible misandry.

    This whole thing was reported terribly, and probably lawyered even worse.

  12. In a perfect world, the doctor would have been aware of the possibility of cancer, and talked it over with the patient before the surgery took place. In the real world, surgeons tend to remove cancer wherever they see it, the option being to allow a patient to die a horrible death.

  13. I can’t resit….But this guy really got screwed….not once but twice…did anyone bother to at least kiss him?

  14. hhhaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

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