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Phillip Seaton struggled to control his emotions with difficulty as he talked about waking up from surgery to discover he no longer had a penis.
Seaton, 61, said he went into Jewish Hospital Shelbyville in last October to have a simple circumcision to have his foreskin removed because the excess skin was contributing to what he was told was some type of infection on the tip of his penis.
"The doctor knew that's all that was supposed to be done," he said Friday. "We even joked about it, like, don't take off too much."
But when Seaton woke up with no penis, it was no laughing matter.
"I woke up in the hospital, and thought I was going to be able to get up and go home," he said.
And then his urologist, Dr. John Patterson, came in to break the news to Seaton - news that Seaton's wife, Debbie, said she could not bring herself to tell her husband.
"I could not tell him, I just couldn't," she said, in obvious turmoil while sitting next to her husband as they talked publicly for the first time about the surgery. "When the doctor came out to the waiting room and told me that he had to cut off his penis, I was in shock, just total shock."
The Seatons filed suit Sept. 15 in Shelby County Circuit Court against Patterson of Frankfort and Dr. Oliver James of Shelbyville, who administered the anesthesia, as well as Commonwealth PSC in Frankfort, Patterson's employer. Jewish Hospital was not named in the suit.
Neither doctor responded to phone calls.
James is named in the suit because Seaton has sleep apnea, and because of that, he had asked not to receive a general anesthesia. He said James gave him a general anesthesia despite having reassured him that he would not.
Seaton said he has been in constant pain since the surgery. "It hurts twenty-four-seven," he said. "And I have to do painful exercises every night."
In addition, he has to be catheterized twice a week - something his wife does at home.
"I do that for him," she said.
Seaton's attorney, Kevin George, said the whole thing started when Seaton's primary physician began treating him for inflammation and irritation on the tip of the penis. The doctor gave him some topical cream, which did not help much, so he sent him to a specialist - Patterson.
Seaton said he saw Patterson at the doctor's office in Shelbyville office and that the doctor told him he recommended a circumcision so that he could better treat the fungus.
"It was supposed to be a simple half-hour procedure," he said.
"The next thing Debbie knew is when Dr. Patterson came out and told her, 'I cut off his penis.'
George said Patterson said he amputated his client's penis because he had found cancer.
He added that the doctor's actions were premature, because he did not get lab results first to make sure it was cancer. Also, in amputating his client's penis without his permission, he denied him the right to get a second opinion, to make a decision about treatment, or to get emotionally prepared to wake up without his manhood.
"You have to be assured that you have cancer before you let somebody cut off your penis," George said. "It may have taken a second opinion, it may have taken a third opinion, but he's entitled to be comfortable with the fact that he had cancer and that whatever treatment he had was necessary.
"You don't just cut off a man's penis like you would remove a wart off your finger."
Debbie Seaton said she felt that the doctor should either have stopped the procedure when he found cancer, or consulted her.
"He could have come out and asked me about it," she said.
George said that on top of everything else, Seaton's anguish is compounded because he's not really sure he had even had cancer.
"He feels like he didn't, and they cut off his penis for a no good reason," George said.
George added that in addition to the physical problems, the Seatons are both suffering mental and emotional anguish.
"They didn't get to talk about it beforehand, and they didn't get to reassure each other, or anything like that," he said.
George said that Patterson and James have until Oct. 15 to respond to the suit.
"I don't know what the doctor will respond with, but I expect it be will something like, 'Well, I'm the doctor, I saw cancer, and I know what's best,'" he said.
George said that aside from the trauma that Seaton is going through, the incident has done a lot of damage to the Seatons' faith in the medical profession.
"The scary part is, we put our trust in doctors," he said. "If that trust is broken, people are going to be afraid to go to the doctor."