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$19.5 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict Reversed by PA Superior Court

medical-malpracticeIn 2008, Marianne Pomroy underwent a potentially risky polyp removal procedure and died just after the surgery, prompting her spouse George to file suit against her attending doctor and the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. The malpractice case against Dr. Rosato claimed that the surgeon failed to meet the standard of care by clearly outlining the risks of the surgery to his patient prior to the operation.

The suit was tried in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas where the judge found the defendant liable and handed down a $19.5 million medical malpractice verdict. The multi-million dollar judgment was recently reversed by a three judge panel on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, who found that “unreliable opinions” were provided by the plaintiff’s expert witness.

Superior court reverses medical malpractice verdict

Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Jack Panella wrote an opinion indicating that the Pomroys’ personal doctor recommended two methods for removing the decedent’s large colon polyps – either through surgery or a saline colonoscopy. The decedent’s physician cautioned that the saline approach, which creates distance between the polyp and the intestine, ran the risk of perforating the colon and suggested the surgical route.

Marianne had a fear of colon perforation, Pomroy told the jury, and after hearing their doctor’s suggestion, met with Dr. Rosato (who is now deceased) to review potential risks and benefits of the surgery. Testimony revealed that Marianne was aware that polyp removal surgery came with its own set of risks and there was no allegation that the patient was not properly warned or failed to offer her informed consent for the operation.

“After careful review of the record, we agree with Dr. Rosato’s position that no evidence was offered to prove that Mrs. Pomroy would have changed her mind and pursued saline endoscopy if Dr. Rosato had refused to provide her with the surgical removal option,” read the opinion of Superior Court Judge Jack Panella.

The panel’s opinion states that for a medical malpractice lawsuit to prove successful, a claimant must demonstrate with the aid of expert testimony, that “but for” the defendant’s purported negligent actions, the injuries incurred by the plaintiff would not have happened.

Risks of polyp removal colonoscopy and surgery

Colon polyps may be benign in nature, but those that are larger than 1 cm are more likely to contain malignant cancerous cells. A colonoscopy is often indicated to remove small to medium polyps, and is a relatively safe procedure with slight risk of bleeding, colon puncture and anesthesia complications. Surgery may be necessary for bigger polyps that have a broader area of attachment on the colon wall.

The chances of developing colonic polyps increases with age, as more than 30 percent of people over 60 will have adenomatous polyps. Other factors include genetic disposition, obesity, smoking and poor diets that are low in fiber and heavy in meats and saturated fat.

Unfortunately, colonic polyps – unless very large or closer to the end of the bowel – have no symptoms. When unusual side effects are reported, it’s usually rectal bleeding, pain and loose stools.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of polyps is the best bet for avoiding colorectal cancer, which grows in the lining of the rectum and large intestines.