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By Lisa King
Landmark News Service
The man who sued his surgeon and lost when he said the doctor had no right to amputate his penis has taken his case to the state’s appellate process in a case that could have significant ramifications in medical procedure.
Oral arguments were heard last Tuesday at the Kentucky Court of Appeals in the case of Phillip Seaton, 65, of Waddy vs. his urologist, Dr. John Patterson of Frankfort.
Seaton, wearing a long gray ponytail, sat with his wife, Deborah, and did not speak as his attorney, Kevin George, and Patterson’s counsel, Clay Robinson, argued before a two-judge panel of Janet Stumbo and Donna Dixon. The panel was to have included Judge Michael Caperton, but he went to the wrong courthouse.
George argued that, during the trial in August 2011, Shelby Circuit Judge Charles Hickman did not give sufficiently specific instructions to the jury.
That panel of six men and six women deliberated for more than an hour before ruling unanimously that Patterson acted appropriately when he amputated the organ during a procedure in 2007 at Jewish Hospital Shelbyville.
Patterson was performing a circumcision on Seaton because of an infected foreskin, but when he found cancer, Patterson, who is employed at Commonwealth Urology in Frankfort, amputated instead, leaving Seaton to awaken to a devastating situation.
Patterson’s primary defense at the trial was that Seaton had signed a consent form, which states that a doctor has the right to deviate from a planned procedure if something unforeseen is encountered during the procedure.
George told the court Tuesday that the key issue, which makes the case important to the general public and future cases, is the question of how much power the consent form gives doctors.
“Everybody knows you can’t take the consent form literally,” he said. “If that’s the case, you could go in to have a mole removed and have your leg cut off. This is an important case because that form is used all the time.”
Robinson told the panel of judges the same thing he had told the jury during the trial last year, that Patterson did the right thing by cutting off the diseased organ, because Seaton had Stage 2 penile cancer.
“Patterson had a decision to make; he didn’t remove a penis, he removed infected, dead, necrotic tissue,” Robinson said.
The judges asked occasional questions of the attorneys, and Stumbo asked Robinson why Patterson didn’t stop the procedure and wake the patient up or at least go out into the waiting room to consult his wife.
“He did not check to see if Mrs. Patterson was in the waiting room, is that correct?” she asked.
“That is correct,” Robinson said.