SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky truck driver who was wheeled into surgery for a simple circumcision but awoke without part of his penis lost his multimillion-dollar lawsuit Wednesday against the urologist who lopped off a cancer-riddled section of the organ.
A six-man, six-woman jury deliberated briefly before saying it didn’t agree with 64-year-old Phillip Seaton and his wife, Deborah, that Dr. John Patterson had failed to exercise proper care. Seaton also sued because he said he hadn’t consented to the amputation.
The doctor said he decided to amputate less than an inch (2.5 centimetres) of the penis after he found potentially deadly cancer during surgery in 2007. The rest of the penis was taken off later by another doctor.
Patterson testified that when he cut the foreskin, the tip of the penis had the appearance of rotten cauliflower, indicating cancer. A pathologist later testified that tests confirmed the diagnosis.
“What I saw was not a penis. What I saw was cancer,” Patterson had testified.
His attorney said during the three-day trial in Shelby County Circuit Court that the doctor saved Seaton’s life with his decisive action.
Seaton’s attorney countered that Patterson should have sewn up his patient and consulted with the couple about such a life-altering surgery and his options to treat the cancer.
“He was mutilated,” attorney Kevin George said during closing arguments that took about as long as the jury deliberations. “His manhood was taken.”
All jurors, including the forewoman, declined to comment as they filed out of the courthouse after the trial.
Seaton, a former truck driver from Waddy with a long, grey ponytail and grey beard, and his wife of 35 years had been seeking nearly $16 million in damages for “loss of service, love and affection.” They declined to comment after the verdict.
George said he planned to appeal on grounds that a doctor is allowed to change a consent for surgery only if there is a danger of imminent death.
“There was no emergency, no reason to do it,” George said of the amputation.
Seaton, who has limited reading skills, signed a consent form for the circumcision. The doctor’s lawyer said that consent gave Patterson the latitude to deal with unforeseen circumstances during the surgery.
Patterson, who testified twice during the trial, said after the verdict, “I think we’re feeling pretty good.” He declined to say more about the highly publicized case, calling one reporter who tried to question him “a member of the tabloid press.”
“We feel like justice was done,” said the doctor’s attorney, Clay Robinson.
He said the doctor never wavered in his belief he did nothing wrong, but added:
“No doctor ever wins a malpractice action. It’s just a matter of how much you lose by.”