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Penis amputation case may go to Kentucky Supreme Court

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Philip Seaton’s attorney says case is not over despite appellate court defeat

By Lisa King

A Waddy man who lost a battle in the state Court of Appeals on Friday may not be giving up his fight to have his doctor held accountable for amputating his penis.

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The attorney for Phillip Seaton said Wednesday that he may go to the Kentucky Supreme Court, if necessary, to seek relief against Dr. John Patterson of Frankfort, who twice has been vindicated for deciding to amputate Seatons’ penis during a circumcision in 2007.

The appeal court ruled by a 2-1 majority that a Shelby County Circuit Court jury was correct in 2011 when it decided unanimously that Patterson acted appropriately to amputate the organ during a procedure at Jewish Hospital Shelbyville.

“It’s a disappointment,” Seaton’s attorney, Kevin George, said of the court’s ruling, adding that he plans to pursue the matter further, either at the appellate court level or in the supreme court. That has not been decided yet, he said.

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.

George had argued that Seaton had expected a simple circumcision and did not give Patterson permission to amputate and thus was robbed of his opportunity to get a second opinion. He also argued that the jury’s verdict was questionable, either because the instructions the jury received were not sufficiently specific or that the verdict was faulty.

Court of Appeals Judges Janet Stumbo and Donna Dixon supported the circuit court’s decision, and Judge Michael Caperton opposed.

In the court’s opinion, Stumbo, the ruling judge, wrote that “we conclude that the jury properly determined that Dr. Patterson had consent to perform a partial penectomy and find no error.”

Stumbo wrote that she agreed with Patterson’s contention that if he had not removed Seaton’s cancerous penis, it would have proven fatal to him in the future.

“This in our view, properly characterizes the removal of the tumor as necessary and proper,” she wrote.

One point of contention is whether Patterson could have halted the procedure without serious medical consequences, a point that George brought up during the trial. But Patterson said he could not have inserted a catheter to allow Seaton to urinate if he had not removed the cancerous tissue.

"He also opined that serious complications and additional surgery could result if he did not insert the catheter," Stumbo wrote.

As for the jury’s verdict,  Stumbo wrote, “We cannot conclude that the verdict was palpably or flagrantly against the evidence.”

Stumbo said it was clear that Seaton, who had testified that he could not read or write well, had signed a consent form that allowed Patterson to go forward with any unexpected procedures that were required.

“We find no error on this issue,” she wrote.

This suit originally had included JHS and Seaton’s anesthesiologist, Dr. Oliver James, but those complaints were settled before the trial began. Details have not been disclosed.

There are two options open to the Seatons, either to ask the court of appeals to reconsider its decision or to file a motion with the Kentucky Supreme Court for discretionary review. The Seatons would have 20 days to do the former and 30 days to file a motion with the supreme court.

George said he and the Seatons feel they shouldn’t let the matter drop because it has wider implications than just this single case.

 “We are going to continue to pursue the matter because we believe this decision acts to take away the doctrine of informed consent,” George said. “Any patient that goes to the hospital for any surgery would be subject to having the doctor do whatever the doctor decides to do during the surgery. And for that reason we believe it’s very important for every patient in Kentucky that this decision be reversed.”

Clay Robinson, a Lexington-based attorney for Patterson, did not return a phone call from The Sentinel-News, and someone answering the phone in his office said he would be away for the remainder of the week.