Jury rules for doctor in penis amputation case

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Decision was unanimous

By Lisa King

Dr. John Patterson acted appropriately when he amputated Phillip Seaton’s penis during surgery in 2007, a jury in Shelby County Circuit Court has ruled.

After more than two days of emotional and sometimes embarrassing testimony from a variety witnesses, the jury of six men and six women deliberated little more than hour and ruled unanimously just before 2 p.m.

Seaton, 64, and his wife, Deborah, of Waddy had sued Patterson because they say Seaton should have been awakened when Patterson found cancer while conducting a circumcision at Jewish Hospital Shelbyville.

Ten of the 12 jurors also ruled that Seaton had given his consent for Patterson to proceed as he saw fit during the procedure.

The Seatons, in emotional pleas for the affects of Patterson’s decision, could have been awarded damages of up to $16 million.

The couple earlier had settled with the hospital and with the anesthesiologist, Dr. Oliver James, who also testified during the trial. Terms of those settlements were not disclosed.

The presentation of evidence, which drew wide media attention, concluded Wednesday morning when Patterson’s attorney, Clay Robinson called two more doctors testified, a pathologist: Dr. John Ebley, who is a professor and chair of pathology at Indiana University, and Dr. William Monnig, a urologist in Edgewood who is also a faculty member at the University of Cincinnati.

Ebley was asked few questions and mostly explained the technical aspects of Seaton's pathology report, testifying that Seaton had Stage T-2 penile cancer.

Monnig responded to questions from Robinson, who asked him if he thought Patterson did the right thing in amputating Seaton's penis, and if so, why.

"If you have a rotten piece of tissue, you should get rid of it to allow the infection to go away, and you should establish urinary drainage, and if it looks like cancer, you should remove it," Monnig said.

Those issues were at the crux of the defense's arguments . All the expert witnesses called by Robinson testified that that Patterson acted upon the need to remove cancerous tissue and expose Seaton's urethra to make sure he would be able to void sufficiently.

George’s closing statement emphasized the anguish his client has undergone since he awoke from what was to have been a simple circumcision and found his penis had been removed in an operation performed at Jewish Hospital Shelbyville in 2007.

"Phillip was mutilated," George said. "His manhood was taken."

Robinson, in his statement, said Patterson actions saved Seaton's life and emphasized that all of his expert witnesses testified that they believed the same.

He stressed the fact that Seaton had signed a consent form giving his doctor the right to do whatever he deemed necessary to treat him, despite the fact that neither doctor nor patient expected to find cancer, instead of an infected foreskin, which had necessitated the circumcision.

A key factor in the case was whether or not Patterson should have awakened Seaton from anesthetic and asked him if he wanted him to amputate instead of making that decision on his own.

Patterson testified that he felt it was the right thing to do, because to do otherwise would have exposed his patient to too many risk factors, such as allowing the cancer to spread, and risk Seaton not being able to urinate after the surgery, not to mention stopping the procedure after initial incisions had been made.

George maintained that immediate amputation was unnecessary and that Patterson should have halted the procedure when he found cancer and sought Seaton’s opinion.