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FRANKFORT – 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 appealate system in a case that could have significant ramifications in medical procedure.
Oral arguments were heard 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 2-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 Patterson 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.
Robinson had stated during his argument that not amputating would have led to health concerns, such as possible infection or not being able to urinate, but George said the risk to Patterson’s health did not pose the risk of death.
Stumbo said she considered that distinction to be an “important issue.”
She also mentioned that if Patterson had been awakened, he could have been “referred to someone else,” something George also alluded to in his argument.
“This was the first time he [Patterson] had ever done a penectomy before; clearly, a reasonable man would not have chosen him to do the surgery,” George said.
The Seatons had initially also named the hospital and the anesthesiologist, Dr. Oliver James, in the suit but settled with them before the trial began. Terms of those settlements have not been disclosed.
Stumbo said that the panel would review the case. Caperton will have to study the transcripts of the court proceedings.
A majority decision will determine the outcome, and she said she expected the decision to take about two months.
Neither attorney would comment on the case after the hearing.
“I made all my comments the judge,” George said.
Patterson did not attend the hearing and on Tuesday afternoon was seeing patients at his office. He did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.
The Seatons also declined to comment, although Seaton said politely, “I thank you for coming.”