Max Award Given To Woman After Unnecessary Hysterectomy
A 24-year-old woman who underwent a hysterectomy after delivering her first child was awarded the maximum amount by a judge last month. The judge determined the physician treating the plaintiff for bleeding after pregnancy did not follow appropriate standard of care when removing the uterus, rendering her unable to have any more biological children.
Sara M. Lambert Smith, with her husband Scott Smith, filed their malpractice lawsuit on December 16, 2014. In their complaint, the couple alleged that the physician who treated Sara Smith after the delivery of her first child in 2013, Dr. Roy Wolfe, did not perform the basic standard of care when Smith experienced bleeding after her delivery. The couple offered a “preponderance” of evidence, according to the ruling by Judge Irene C. Berger, that Dr. Wolfe demonstrated negligence in his care of the plaintiff.
According to the complaint, Smith presented at Raleigh General Hospital with heavy vaginal bleeding, just five days after giving birth to her first child. Dr. Wolfe performed a D&C (dilation and curettage) to remove possible retained products of conception in the uterus in an effort to stop the bleeding. When the D&C did not have the desired effect, Dr. Wolfe moved forward with the hysterectomy.
Alternative therapies not offered
Judge Berger determined during the two-day trial that Dr. Wolfe did not utilize any number of additional therapies that might have stopped the uterine bleeding without a hysterectomy. Some of the treatments Judge Berger included in her decision were uterine massage and surgical procedures designed specifically for this purpose. Judge Berger noted that many of these treatments would have been completed very quickly and could have avoided the need for removal of the uterus.
Dr. Wolfe performed the hysterectomy despite the fact that Smith’s vital signs were stable and there was no evidence of hemodynamic instability, the court determined. Judge Berger also ruled that Dr. Wolfe’s care was “egregariously below the standard of care” and that the physician’s negligence resulted in the plaintiff’s loss of fertility, early menopause and the emotional and physical toll taken by those consequences.
Smith’s husband, Scott Smith, also filed a count against the physician, stating his wife’s injuries led to his own loss of consortium. Although the defendants attempted to have this claim thrown out of court, it was upheld by Judge Berger in July of this year. The judge ultimately awarded Scott Smith $40,000 for loss of consortium, in addition to his wife’s award.
Judge Berger decided that Dr. Wolfe was indeed negligent and awarded Smith the highest possible amount available for her case. This totaled $643,020 in non-economic damages, as well as an additional $29,000 in economic damages, mostly due to medical bills.
The problem with unnecessary hysterectomies
Sadly, Smith’s case is not as rare as one would like to believe. According to Medical News Today, a new study has found that as many as one in five women in the United States undergo hysterectomies unnecessarily. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that nearly 40 percent of women that underwent a hysterectomy in Michigan in 2013 did not have alternative methods of treatment prior to the surgery,
In addition, the pathological reports of nearly one in five women after their hysterectomies did not support the need for this specific surgery. Even more concerning was the fact that a large percentage of the woman that did no need a hysterectomy according to the pathology results were under the age of 40. In fact, 37.8 percent of women still in childbearing years had pathology reports that did not support the necessity of a hysterectomy as treatment for their medical conditions.
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that permanently prevents a woman from having biological children and initiates menopause and all of its difficult symptoms at an early age. If you have suffered the effects of surgical negligence, legal assistance is available.
Contact The Sanders Firm at 1-800-FAIR-PLAY for a free assessment of your case and answers to all your legal questions. Resources
- West Virginia Record, Federal Judge Awards Woman Maximum Amount Under Medical Malpractice Laws, http://wvrecord.com/stories/511049597-federal-judge-awards-woman-maximum-amount-under-medical-malpractice-laws
- Charleston Gazette-Mail, Judge Awards Max to Woman, 24, after Hysterectomy, http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/20161126/judge-awards-max-to-woman-24-after-hysterectomy–
- Justia, Smith, et. al. v. United States, https://dockets.justia.com/docket/west-virginia/wvsdce/5:2014cv30075/180003
- Diederich Healthcare, 2015 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis, http://www.diederichhealthcare.com/the-standard/2015-medical-malpractice-payout-analysis/