Evidence Regarding Procedure Risks and Complications Is Admissible, PA Supreme Court Rules

November 27, 2019 | Strategic Insights for Health System


After a jury found in favor of a surgeon, a physician practice, and a hospital in a case in which a patient's bowel was perforated during laparoscopic hysterectomy, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that although evidence regarding informed consent is not admissible at trial in a medical negligence case when informed consent is not at issue, evidence regarding general risks and complications of a surgical procedure may be admissible. In so ruling, the state supreme court reversed the order of the state Superior Court, reinstating the trial court's denial of the plaintiff's motion for a new trial.

During a laparoscopic hysterectomy performed by a resident and an attending obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN), the resident made the initial incision in the abdomen. The resident did not lift and look through the peritoneum to see the anatomical structures underneath, in part because the patient was obese and, according to testimony from the resident and the defendants' medical expert, it is rarely possible to identify anatomical structures through the peritoneum in obese patients. As the doctors were opening the peritoneum, the attending surgeon realized that the patient's bowel had been cut. Unexpectedly, the bowel had been in an atypical location in the middle of the patient's abdomen. Another surgeon successfully performed an emergency loop ileostomy. However, the patient had to wear an...

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