A Kentucky man did not consent to have his penis amputated and the doctor who performed the surgery had options other than removing the organ, even though cancer had been found during a surgery, an attorney argued Tuesday to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
Kevin George, the lawyer for Phillip Seaton of Waddy, told the appeals panel that the medical waiver signed by his client contains extremely broad language and that Dr. John Patterson should have sought consent before removing the penis.
“The point is … a patient has a right,” George said. “The doctor does not have the right to do whatever he wants, even if it turns out to be reasonable.”
Judges Janet Stumbo and Donna Dixon took in the 30 minutes of arguments in Frankfort over whether a judge erred in the jury instructions and if the pre-surgery medical consent form was valid or the language in it proved to be too vague. Judge Michael Caperton missed the arguments. Stumbo said Caperton mistakenly went to Louisville for the case, but would listen to a recording of it later.
Stumbo said a decision is expected in about two months.
Patterson, a Kentucky-based urologist, maintains he found cancer in the man’s penis during surgery and that it had to be removed. The patient claims the surgery was supposed to be a circumcision and he never authorized the amputation, nor was he given a chance to seek a second opinion.
The Seatons sued Patterson in Shelby County Circuit Court in 2008 after an operation that resulted in the amputation. Seaton, now in his 60s, was having the procedure on Oct. 19, 2007, to better treat inflammation.
The Seatons also sued Jewish Hospital, where the surgery took place. The hospital settled with the Seaton and his wife, Deborah, for an undisclosed amount.
Seaton, sporting glasses and a long, gray and white ponytail, sat quietly as the attorneys recounted the details of the case and argued over whether the judge’s rulings and the jury’s outcome were correct.
“No comment right now,” Seaton said as he left the courtroom.
Both sides of the case agree that Seaton had cancer in his penis, but the main point of contention is over whether Patterson acted reasonably in removing the organ or could amputation have been delayed to give Seaton time to seek other medical options.
Clay Robinson, the attorney for Patterson, noted that Seaton, although he claimed to be mostly illiterate, signed two separate consent forms before the surgery. When Patterson started the surgical procedure, he found no living tissue, instead revealing a cancer-riddled organ that needed removal, Robinson said.
“This case isn’t about a man’s penis being removed, it’s about cancer being removed,” Robinson said.
Stumbo noted that Patterson, after finding the cancer, didn’t momentarily halt the surgery and seek the consent of Deborah Seaton, who was outside the operating room.
Robinson said the couple had been separated at the time of the procedure.
“She was not designated as a medical decision maker for Mr. Seaton,” Robinson said.
George noted that Seaton signed the two consent forms in the days before the surgery, but said his client was basically illiterate and didn’t intend to give Paterson consent to amputate, only conduct a circumcision. Stumbo appeared to agree.
“I noticed these were very, very, very broad instructions,” Stumbo said.
Dixon asked why Patterson felt it was necessary to amputate as much of the penis as he did.
“Is there another procedure … he could have had that would have meant he wouldn’t have had to have part of his penis removed?” Dixon said.
“The direct answer is, no,” Robinson replied. “The removal of the cancer did not preclude his having his penis reconstructed.”
Stumbo, though, seemed troubled by Patterson’s decision to amputate the penis without seeking further consent to do so or giving Seaton an opportunity to explore other options.
“Was it truly an emergency?” Stumbo asked. “That’s the question.”