IamA lady who was misdiagnosed with colon cancer and accidentally sterilized during surgery AMA!
In 2009 I started experiencing some rectal bleeding. I was given a colonoscopy and they found a mass in my sigmoid colon. Immediately after the procedure the surgeon told me to prepare myself that I had colon cancer (prior to biopsy results). Biopsy results came back benign but they he insisted that it was likely cancer. I went to a colon/rectal specialist to get a second opinion and he also insisted that it was likely cancer. They said we needed to operate right away and scheduled me for a laparoscopic sigmoid colon resection. When I woke up from surgery, they informed me that they had accidentally cut out my cervix during surgery and had to perform the hysterectomy. I had also been given ileostomy, aka "shit bag". After a TON of complications and another surgery to take down the ileostomy, I'm left with lots of physical and emotional scars. I can never have a child with out a surrogate or adoption, and I have ongoing medical problems that land me in the hospital once or twice a year. The kicker? I live in Texas, and because of tort reform, I was never able to collect damages. Ask me anything, I will share every gory detail.
My Proof: http://i.imgur.com/oC1FQCi.jpg Off to bed! I'll be back on to answer more in the morning! Night and thanks for the questions!
Tort Reform is a law that puts a cap on medical malpractice law suits. Basically, the most you can get in Texas is $250,000. Which sounds like a LOT of money, but not to a lawyer. They will only see a small percent of that. Since it's all about the bottom line (they strait up told me this) it's not worth it to them. They can make more money taking on a different case. I tried, spoke with several firms but ultimately no one would take the case.
Where do you live that no one would take your case? I'm a lawyer in Texas. Anywhere between a third and a half of the appeals that come across my desk (I only do appeals) are med mal cases.
I live in central Texas. I was also surprised, I thought it would be really easy to just make a few phone calls and have my pick. I was wrong.
The problem is that for your average personal injury lawyer, medical malpractice cases are pretty expensive. They can easily run 100K in costs to an attorney (mostly for experts). So the economics are unfortunately pretty simple: They get 33-40% of the 250k, which is 100K on their best day (40%), and are stuck with paying 100K in expert fees.
Maybe you can file something and get a nuisance settlement like 20K or something, which is better than nothing.
Thanks for putting some numbers to this!
I may be mistaken, but I thought the 250k limit was in regards to pain and suffering. Actual damages aren't capped, but I also haven't looked into this in any detail
I believe you are correct.
Are people in this thread complaining that $250K maximum for pain and suffering is too low? Besides actual costs incurred?
Also, why should a lawyer get more than the money owed for the time worked? I.e. why would a lawyer get a bigger amount of money of the claimant "suffered more"?
Your legal system is fucked up. No offense.
I find it strange that they can't prove any actual damages enough to make it worthwhile, but then again im not a lawyer
It might depend on the specifics of the case. For example, one of the more difficult to meet elements of a medical malpractice tort is the breaching of a standard of care.
The lawyer would have to show what the standard of medical care was, and then that her doctor didn't meet it. This can be very expensive. To show what the standard is, the lawyer would need to hire a bunch of expert witnesses to establish what a good doctor would have done in the same situation as the OPs doctor. Even though she had the cervix injury and removal, its not necessarily a given that the doctor messed up. The other side will also have expert witnesses who claim that removing such a tumor will have risks to hurting the cervix, and no matter how good you are as a surgeon, you might accidentally nick it with your blade (or something). They will also have an expert witness say that the tumor should have been removed even though it was benign.
Keep in mind that each of these witnesses probably charges 1000+/hr, and you probably have to hire a couple of them, and pay for an initial meeting, and have them give testimonies to both sides, and do practice examinations, and then pay for them to sit in court all day. The costs add up quick. Then on top of that, you might not even win the case. If texas successful passed limits on medical malpractice judgements, that means the public doesn't like awarding money to victims there. It might be that even after the lawyer hires all those witnesses, they still just side with the hospital. Thus, the lawyer just paid 100k for the case, and gets paid nothing, or a paltry sum.
Thanks for all of this info!!
I'm sorry you had to go through this. That is a horrendously shitty law.
If the maximum amount of recoverable damages is 250,000, are there pretty much zero medical malpractice cases in Texas? I ask because it will likely cost a lawyer/firm much more than 250,000 dollars to try a medical malpractice case, so I can understand why they wouldn't take it. Even if they won, they will have lost a lot of money.
Yes, because of Tort Reform almost no firms even take medical malpractice cases.
I'm overall for tort reform, but I think 250k is a ridiculously low amount.
What about hiring a hitman?
I hadn't thought about that lol I do think about writing him a letter though lol
Did you file a complaint against him with the state Medical licensing board? Perhaps his license is in need a review.
I didn't. It might be worth looking into!
So what was your rectal bleeding really as it wasn't colon cancer? Sorry if it already been stated somewhere but well..English not my first language.
Also I can't believe they get away with stuff like this..Can't see diffrence between colon cancer and cervix? Maybe picked the wrong proffession.
I had endometriosis, which is not a life threatening condition and could have been managed with medication (birth control or other hormone treatments) and I would have likely been able to save my fertility since my uterus and ovaries were healthy.
Did you know you had endometriosis before the rectal bleeding started? Peritoneal endometriosis can cause that (because your fallopean tubes are open ended, endometrial cells can migrate and cause issues throughout the peritoneal cavity)
I didn't know. I didn't have any other symptoms, most people experience painfully heavy periods. Mine were normal, my uterus and ovaries were unaffected which is highly unusual.
Do you have any clue what caused your endometriosis? Was it irregular cycles? Or none at all for a long time?
I love with a person who has this. Your post really helped us spark a health discussion. Thank you!
I don't know what caused it. I had 100% regular cycles, none of the typical markers for endo.
Wow that's horrible....how could they accidently remove your cervix??
Also, how old are you?
I'm so sorry :(
While he was cutting out the tumor, he removed it. If you read through the notes it essentially says, he thought he was removing the tumor but as the anatomy became clear he realized it was actually my cervix and he had no choice but to complete the hysterectomy. I'm 33 now, at the time I was 29.
He should have known the difference between your cervix and a tumor otherwise he had no business performing the surgery. This is bullshit.
I agree! The colon cancer misdiagnosis set into motion the whole chain of events. They were in there aggressively, because they thought it was life threatening. I am absolutely worse off than before surgery.
I am speechless, I am so sorry.
I can't believe you have to just accept them mutilating you like that. :/
Thank you. Initially, it was really really terrible. I still don't go more than a few days without thinking about it, but in general I have a pretty great life, so I'm doin ok.
On the flip side, they thought they were saving your life. So I wouldn't hold too much against them.
I don't. Some times I feel slighted when I'm in the hospital for another bowel obstruction or when I get really sad about not having kiddos. I'm not actively angry.
I'm a registered nurse in TX. File a complaint with the medical board. (You would think someone in the hospital would've done that). Then file a complaint on the hospital where the surgery took place. Here are some links.
When you file a legit complaint against the hospital it brings an almighty SHIT STORM raining down. I've been through it with my facility.
Ok so I guess I missed the part where this happened years ago. Honestly wtf.
How did the surgeon tell you the mistake? What was his demeanor while talking to you?
He cried at my bedside, I don't remember exactly what he said in our first conversation after surgery, because I was heavily medicated but I remember he cried.
I'm really, really sorry what happened to you. It's always hard to hear/read these kinds of horror-stories, where doctor's mistakes change lives for the worse.
I'm a medical student (in Europe). Some may think that I can't have an objective opinion on this theme. That's somewhat true of course. But since I can see the doctors working and teaching me, and not yet myself doing the job, I feel like I actually have pretty good perspective on things.
And the point of this reply? There were mistakes made in this story. Some minor, some a bit bigger. But people should understand this: even today, with all the fancy gadgets we have for diagnosis, a BIG portion of medicine is just playing with probabilities. Many times the diagnosis is made certain after you know which cure is working. Doctors have to work with a lot of uncertainties. Basically nothing is 100 % sure (even the smallest of surgeries can lead to massive complications etc.). Except the fact that doctors do mistakes. That's human. And I understand, when your job is so closely knit with such a personal trait as somebody's health, mistakes are hard to understand/forgive. But they do happen, and sometimes they are bad. When doctors do mistakes, people die. And that's the fact that every doctor has to live with. It's insanely stressful. If every mistake leads to a witch-hunt, there won't be any doctors left soon.
Don't get me wrong, every mistake should be looked into. We learn from mistakes, and for a doctor, especially a surgeon, it's more important than usually not to repeat them. So I truly believe and hope, that "thanks" to your suffering, other people will be saved from the same. But if it's because you were extremely sloppy, or you are making mistakes all the time, then you shouldn't be operating on people. But these decisions should be made and assessed by professionals, people who themselves know how it's supposed to be done, who have some insight of the topic and the performed treatments.
I don't mean to say you shouldn't be upset or angry. I just ask for some understanding for the doctors. Even they are human. And despite all the stress, uncertainties, fatal mistakes and disappointments people show them, these are people who are willing to cope with that all to help others.
This was directed to all, not especially OP. Actually, usually the people to whom it happened, are more understanding than the people who hear the story. I hope all the best for OP, thanks for sharing your tragic story! No disrespect for your difficulties, just felt someone should give some other perspective.
Just my two cents.
Thanks for the insight. I totally get what you are saying. ;}
what's your favorite Colon Farrel movie
I get pissed off getting a bad deal at the car mechanic, I can only imagine how you must have felt. All surgeries are inherently risky, my dad had surgery to remove a tumor in his kidney and ended up with a large hernia in his side (he hasn't been the same since). In his case it is a trade for another (hopefully) 20+ years to his life, and at the time your surgeon was probably thinking in a similar way for you. What boggles my mind is how gross a misdiagnosis that was!
I'm curious, what were the ages and experience levels of the doctors? Both the surgeon and the specialist.
The original doc who did the colonoscopy was probably in his 40's and he was a general surgeon. I blame him for a lot of it. He was so convinced it was cancer. The second opinion doctor, the one who did the surgery was older I'm guessing closer to 50. I didn't know at the time, but the two doctors knew each other. I often wonder if that clouded his judgement. I wonder if he would have called for another biopsy, if it hadn't been his buddies name on the paperwork.
The instance of malpractice goes up higher for each year the doctor or surgeon has been away from medical school unfortunately. In the future, don't trust their age for wisdom :(
It will be hard for me to trust any doctors, ever really. I like my GP a lot, but the idea of ever going under the knife again terrifies me.
How did you choose the doctors? Do you have any recommendations on how to or not to do so?
The first doctor I was referred to by my GP. The second doctor I chose based on his reviews. Ultimately, if I could go back, I would choose a second opinion doc, in a different network. I found out later that they knew each other and did surgery out of the same hospital.
Wait, did the original biopsy come in positive for cancer?
On the bright side, your case turned out better than how all the cases Dr. House "solved" would have turned out in real life: original problem solved after quality of life completely obliterated or patient dead.
Also... saving thousands in birth control? :/
No, biopsy came back inconclusive. Basically, the tissue he took was just tissue from my colon. Missed the growth entirely. fucking A. lol Sometimes I'm super happy that I don't have periods anymore. They also ran blood tests looking for certain markers in my blood that indicate cancer, those also came back negative. Still...they were convinced.
Curious: Despite no period bleeding (of course) do your hormones still go through the cycle? i.e. do you still get monthly mood swings?
I do. It's really weird not to know for sure where I am in my cycle, but usually, if I cry, laugh and yell all in the same hour, I know I'm PMS'ing.
How big is the biggest poop you've ever taken?
Never had one big enough to brag about, my husband on the other hand...damn!
I'm so sorry to hear. Has it affected your day to day life in any way?
I have to be careful what I eat. The ileostomy left scar tissue or adhesion in my ileum so I am prone to partial bowl obstruction. It lands me in the hospital 1 or 2 times every year. Also, I just get really blue sometimes when I think about never being able to carry a child.
I'm a man-child, you can carry me around. We can get ice cream.
Ice cream is my FAVORITE!
I can't imagine how that would feel. Originally, my question was going to be "how much was your settlement?" but then I saw the part where you couldn't collect damages. If you lived here in California, you would have walked out of the hospital with the car keys of that surgeon
I got an apology from the surgeon, and he shed some tears at my bedside and that was it. I spoke with several firms, but most don't even take medical malpractice. One firm agreed to look at my case. After about 3 months of waiting to hear if they would even take the case, they passed.
You should definitely keep looking. 250k is still something to someone and I would think you have a very clear cut case without a lot of litigating actually necessary.
It is past the statute of limitations
Also, one of my weirder side effects is that my vagina is a lot shorter.
I can't say that I was expecting that as an answer
It was pretty unexpected for me too!
Does that make sex painful, or uncomfortable for you? I've always wondered that. And, without a cervix to bump, is it painful at the top?
It can be. If we don't warm up the hubs will hit the wall and it will cause some discomfort.
Hey, adoption's not that bad. And if you do decide on a surrogate, remember that there are tons of kids already out there without homes and parents. It's not your responsibility. But you could be killing two birds with one stone with adoption.
Adoption will always be considered.
I believe that it might be hard to prove negligence. The surgery was not unreasonable to perform based upon the info you've provided, although an argument could be made for a second biopsy. The actual surgery sounds very unfortunate, but potentially not unavoidable through reasonable practices in every single case. Basically shit happens, even if you do things right. Of course, I'm not a lawyer, and I'm from the UK, so you might have different standards of medical negligence.
Have you requested your records from the hospital? They should have performed tests on the removed mass after surgery - at the very least it might give you piece of mind.
This is awful, and I sincerely wish you the best. I have to adopt too, and I'm just grateful that I'll have the opportunity to make a difference to my future kid's life, even if I can't shake the niggling irrational desire of my own genetic material.
I agree with huhdude. you had a proven tumor in your pelvis. the surrounding area looked desmoplastic. had you had prior abdominal/pelvic surgery? you say that your tumor pathology came back endometrial tissue, ie your lady parts. so it seems to me that your tumor was invading local structures. this makes dissection very difficult.
this is a shitty situation, but I doubt the surgeon committed blatant malpractice, based on what little info we have in front of us. the surgery was not unreasonable to perform, and the end result, however unfortunate, is not avoidable in 100% of cases, even by the best of surgeons.
I hope things things get better for you.
source: I am not a colorectal surgeon, but I see them all the time
No prior surgery. Maybe it wasn't blatant malpractice, but I think the entire situation was avoidable, but then again, It's hard for me to be objective. The surgery was not needed, I could have easily managed my symptoms with medication.
To me it seems pretty obvious, but I can't exactly be objective lol I have all of my medical records. Including a picture of inside my own bowel. weird.
What was the post-op pathology report?
the growth was endometrial tissue
Ah, right. I really want you to know that I completely empathise with your position, and do believe that you've been very hard done by, but the definitive treatment of metastatic endometriosis is a hysterectomy, too.
But as you probably know, it is probable that you could have been managed with medications.
On the other hand, at least you don't have any predisposition to bowel cancers.
It definitely could have been managed by medication, my ovaries are healthy and so was my uterus. The only symptom I had was rectal bleeding, didn't even have exceptional painful or heavy periods.
This literally made my jaw drop. Incidents like this are good reminder that doctors are certainly capable of human error and the outcome can be terrible. Can you give me the drs name so I can assure I never see him? Kidding. Are you angry have you forgiven the doctors? And were you planning to have kids beforehand? Ps I can't imagine living with the guilt that dr must have
I'm not actively angry. Sometimes when it's on my mind, I get angry. Mostly when I think about never being able to have babies or when I'm paying medical bills.
why do you have to pay medical bills for their mistake? And what about insurance? Have you tried getting publicity like news stations etc to raise awareness and possibly get help financially?
I don't have crazy medical bills because I have insurance. I have to pay co insurance and deductibles. It amounts to several thousand dollars every year. I don't really need help financially, we do ok.
I wasn't married when it happened, and kids were not on my mind or a priority. It is very likely that if I was able to have kids now would be the time. I think about it a lot.
If you want to have a child some day would you adopt or get a surgate for your SO to inseminate her? In a non sexual way ofcourse.
I honestly don't know. I think about it a lot. Since I still have ovaries, we could potentially have a surrogate carry our fully biological child. That idea is pretty appealing, even though I hate that I miss out on the pregnancy bit. Adoption also has certain appeals, but I can't help thinking how much I want to see myself and husband in my child.
I'm very sorry for your horrible experience, but you have your own ovaries and You can have your own child. My cousin could not carry a child either due to a benign uterine tumor, but her ovaries were fine, and her husband was perfectly healthy too. They went to India and paid a surrogate there, it cost about 20k for everything. That's basically the cost of a vehicle. You can do it if you really want it. Edit: I will say that they maxed out their credit cards and borrowed money from family. Had a little girl. Don't lose hope.
I haven't lost hope! It might happen some day. If we both get to the point that it's the most important thing to us. If it could happen naturally, I'm certain I would be pregnant by now. When you have to adopt or do surrogacy, it has to sort of be your only priority, because of the emotional and financial commitment. We talk about it regularly and I know I always have options!
My mother does have colon cancer and went through pretty much the same surgery, although rather than 'accidentally' they warned her so there was no problem.
I guess I might be too late to get an answer anyway but here goes. She got home yesterday after going for surgery Friday the week past (fast I know) and I still don't know how I should be feeling/acting. I just feel awkward. So what should I be feeling/doing? Any advice?
So sorry your mom is going through this! I think it's ok to feel whatever you feel. After my surgery I couldn't even shower myself and I had to have nurses come for my ileostomy care. It's major surgery. I would say just offer you totally support. I needed SO much of it.
Do you think getting a third opinion would have made a difference
Potentially. There has to be someone who would have said, "wait a minute......"
How angry/disappointed/frustrated were you when you found out all the pain and discomfort you have gone through was all unnecessary? also, how did you deal with it?
I wish you all the best for the future!
There was a part of me that was just REALLY grateful that I didn't have cancer, but there was plenty of anger and sadness. I had a counselor in the hospital who helped me do some coping, other than that, I just slowly but surely started to feel better about things.
How did they break the news? Like, what kind of a sentence can a doctor say following a surgery like this?
He literally cried at my bedside. I don't remember a lot of what he said, because I was drugged but I remember his tears. I do remember in the days to follow he would just say things about how difficult the surgery was.
Not trying to thread jack but I had a similar problem - had to have a colon resection - except in my case a section of my left ureter was also removed (ureter drains urine from your kidney to your bladder). I had to have a tube through my back into my left kidney to drain the urine while waiting for the urine pockets in my belly to go away which took about 9 months. In that time frame I had approximately 10 CT scans and was seeing a urology specialist. I was hospitalized numerous time (always had a bag packed) and at one point I was going into renal failure. The specialist eventually repaired the physical damage but one of the options to auto-transplant my kidney was no longer viable and said I would be at risk for dying. I am left with a scar that runs from my pubic bone to above my belly button, as well as the scar on my back from the tube.
I did sue but I cannot talk about the outcome. All I can say was that it took ~3 years and if I had to go through it again, I don't think I would. It took its toll on me mentally and physically and it fundamentally changed me. My wife and I are now divorcing and I believe this contributed to most of the reason why.
It sucks and I literally, feel your pain. It is appalling to me that a doctor can "make a mistake" like this and just be able to walk away from it. Having been through it, I don't think it's right.
Also, fuck medical malpractice insurance companies.
So so sorry for what you went through. hugs It totally changes everything. I think it changed my life ultimately for the better. My health is worse, but my life is better. All that cliche stuff applies to me. When you are in the worst pain and the lowest depths of despair, you really find out what you are made of!
I looked up the Texas medical malpractice laws and I'm wondering why you said you couldn't collect damages? It took me less than one minute to find this-
Non-economic damages should be capped at $250,000 for any and all doctors sued with an additional cap of $250,000 for each of up to two medical care institutions.
Seems to me you could have gotten at least $500k.
What I mean to say is, I wasn't able to collect damages because a lawyer wouldn't take my case. Pain and suffering is capped at $250, 000 the lawyer asked about lost wages, current medical bills and we discussed damages regarding future medical bills, I guess they still felt like it wasn't enough.
Wow. Just wow. I'm really sorry. Hang in there.
Thanks! I'm doing pretty good, life is pretty good.
Tell me they at least took away his license and he is no longer allowed to be a doctor? I am so sorry this happened. This is the stuff of nightmares
He didn't suffer any repercussions.
Wtf is Texas a third world country now? How can that hospital allow that piece of garbage to continue to work?
The thing is, doctors are human, they are bound to make mistakes. When they make a mistakes though, they should have to pay for it. I will have to pay for his mistakes for the rest of my life. The law is not on my side here in Texas.
I really hate to sound cold, however, with that type of attitude, the world will rapidly run out of doctors. I agree with everyone else in saying that what happened to you was beyond terrible, but as you said, people make mistakes.
If it was an honest error, would you be willing to settle for say, the hospital/doctor paying for half of the adoption/surrogate process?
I'm torn between punishing people for an honest error, and the devastating results and Allowing professionals a margin of error.
If you punish professionals for an honest mistake, people will no longer be willing to get into that profession. I'm a professional driver, and scared poopless about making an honest(meaning not deliberate error) and maiming or killing someone. No one is perfect.
You don't sound cold. Honestly, I felt horrible even thinking about the idea that law suit might ruin his career or harm his livelihood. However, the money wouldn't come directly out of his pocket. They carry insurance to cover the cost of their mistakes, so his insurance might go up but he would be fine. To me, fair would be enough to cover the cost of surrogacy or adoption and enough to cover the ongoing medical bills that I have as a result of the unnecessary surgery. You see, the hysterectomy was not the only mistake that was made. The surgery was not needed at all and my health is worse because of it.
a little for the pain and suffering would be nice too. Besides the pain of the horrific surgery. I had many complications. One of the worst being that at one point during recovery the catheter ripped half way through my urethra. It left me incontinent for months. So imagine if you will, being a 29 year old women shitting in a bag on your stomach and having to wear adult diapers. It took me a long time to recover emotionally and physically.
Being male, the words catheter, ripped and urethra made my penis retract to somewhere in the neighourhood of my nipples. I really hope that you are getting some professional help.
I had a really amazing counselor in the hospital and some really amazing home health care nurses that made the whole thing a lot more bearable.
It sounds from the op note like the tumor mass probably involved your cervix. I don't you think you have a good understanding of what happened.
From the op note, it doesn't seem like there was any malpractice at all. All the surgeon's judgments seem reasonable and prudent.
You should be upset at your cancer and not your surgeon who took it out.
As I have stated several times, it wasn't cancer. I think I have a very good understanding of what happened. Yes, it is my understanding that there was endometrial growth on my cervix. I'm going to assume you are a man. If I'm wrong disregard. If your doctor told you that you had cancer in your prostate and they need to operate right away, and you woke up with your testicles removed how would you feel about it? What if you found out they had misdiagnosed you and the tumor was benign and could have been treated with medication, how would you feel? I'm not actively upset, I have not tried to discredit the doctor or drag his name through the mud. I did what any reasonable person would do and explored my legal options. They failed and I deal with the consequences.
I read every comment so far. I'm so very very sorry for you and your husband. So terrible. But, you still seem unconvinced that this doctor needs any repercussions for what he did to you. Oh noooo, you can't find a lawyer to sue him! Oh wait, there's at least one lawyer right in your thread that would jump at the chance for your case. And where thers one, there's more. But, screwing over yourself is one thing - screwing over everyone else that is or in the future going to be his patient is another. I bet you didn't even leave a public review of your mishap/experience. So, where do all the other women he accidentally does this to going to send their thank you cards to you?
No lawyer can do anything. As has been stated several times, the statute of limitations has run out. I chose not to pursue it after the case was rejected. I guess you could say I did it for selfish reasons. It was stressful and painful and I didn't want to deal with it. You are right that I have not put any additional effort into it as far as making waves for him or trying to drag his name through the mud. Maybe that's wrong of me, maybe not.
When everything was still raw emotionally and physically, I honestly just didn't have the strength to fight. After I was turned down by the law firm, I just gave up. Now, I mostly feel like my energy is best spent in other areas of my life. The statute of limitations has run out, so there is nothing to be gained legally.
At least you can have all the analsex you want without getting pregnant now.
teehee. In all seriousness though. I actually don't think anal sex is an option. They all but removed my rectum. lol Rectum? nearly killed em.
How bout you ask a really interesting question....
I can. You said that: "Also, one of my weirder side effects is that my vagina is a lot shorter. "
Does that affect your sex life?
Yes, but not profoundly. If we don't take our time, he can easily hit "bottom" and it causes me a lot of discomfort and it can kill the mood a bit. If we take our time to warm up, there is enough room to accommodate.
Can you explain to me why you are unable to collect damages? This seems very wrong.
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