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Are Patient's Best Interests Always the Focus of a Health Care Provider: A Disturbing Case

Perhaps the most pivotal components of medical malpractice lawsuit are the depositions of the expert witnesses. When trying to determine how the defendant’s conduct matched up with standards of care, attorneys on both side offer up medical experts to explain their position. The testimony of those experts is therefore crucial in getting to the crux of the disagreement.The back-and-forth in those depositions often determine the outcome of the legal matter.

Probe Following Deposition

For example, several years ago The Washington Times recently shared a story on one deposition that is making headlines not for the medical malpractice case for which it was taken but for what the defense’s medical expert admitted during questioning. The underlying case involved claims by a patient that she was burned by a surgical solution during an operation at the Washington Hospital Center several years ago. The defense team offered a surgeon as an expert witness in the case to rebut the charges. During the surgeon’s deposition he made some downright startling claims. In trying to explain that the surgical solution in question rarely ignites he said:

“I’ve been trying to set people on fire for the last three months and can’t do it.”

When pressed by the attorney to explain his statement he continued: “I mean, I put the prep on and wait, and put the prep on and go early; do a lot of using the Bovie [an electric surgical device], but I haven’t been able to ignite anybody.”

It takes a few readings to wrap your head around the bizarre suggestions. Essentially the expert noted that he intentionally tried to burn his own surgical patients--who had no idea they were guinea pigs in this experiment--in order to show that the solution doesn’t ignite easily. It is one thing to argue that a burn in this manner is rare. It is another thing altogether to suggest that you’ve conducted ad hoc tests on random patients and have yet to start a fire on any of them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lawsuit in question was settled out of court between the parties for an undisclosed sum.  That did not end the matter, however. As copies of the doctor’s statements were spread, many eyebrows were understandably raised--including some at the doctor’s own hospital. According to the report, the administrators at the hospital are looking into the matter to determine if patients were actually violated in the manner suggested by the doctor’s statements.

For his part, the doctor now claims that he never actually risked any patient. In follow up interviews he argued: “What I was saying was for the lawyers’ consumption. I said it, but it didn’t happen.” That itself seems like a strange statement considering he was under oath at the time.

Whether the surgeon did or did not test his theories on unsuspecting patients, his cavalier comments are a reminder that sometimes the best interests of the patients are not the number one priority. That is especially true in the aftermath of adverse events, when medical professionals are less than forthcoming about what went wrong and what could have been prevented. If you or a loved one is seriously harmed or killed and you suspect that negligent medical care might have been involved, please take a moment to contact Baltimore malpractice attorneys to see how we can help or reach out to us on our website.

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