Veteran sues government agency for post-surgical medical error

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The federal Veterans Administration is being sued for medical malpractice in the case of a veteran who suffered a severe case of frostbite after personnel at a veteran’s hospital kept putting ice packs on him after he had undergone surgery. The frostbite, in the end, required that a portion of his genitals be removed. The lawsuit seeks $10 million in damages, to be paid by the federal government.

The plaintiff is a Vietnam era veteran, having served in the U.S. Army between 1968 and 1969. He chose to have surgery on the affected area at a veteran’s hospital, as he was entitled to do. The procedure included a circumcision and penile implant. After the surgery, according to a lawsuit, a hospital nurse place ice on his genitals for a total of 19 hours, resulting in frostbite and then gangrene from the prolonged exposure. Since the partial amputation, the veteran has had difficulty urinating, as well as experiencing other difficulties.

The gangrene occurred several weeks after the surgery. He will ultimately need reconstructive surgery to correct his present inability to normally urinate, according to his complaint.

The ice pack was intended to help reduce swelling and pain after the surgery, but the lawsuit claims that use of the ice packs for more than two to three hours, much less 19 hours, amounted to medical negligence, and that doctors should have monitored the nurse’s actions to prevent the frostbite.

The Veterans Administration rejected an administrative claim for compensation the veteran filed with it under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The rejection of the administrative claim left the veteran free to pursue a lawsuit in court, which he is doing. The Veteran’s Administration stated its belief that neither it nor any of its employees were negligent in the veteran’s medical treatment.

Medical errors can occur anytime during the surgical process, not just during. As in this case, proper follow-up care is essential in order for the area that underwent surgery to heal correctly. When medical personnel are negligent in the care they provide, subsequent surgeries can be necessary in order to correct the damage. If you or someone you know is having unexpected post-surgical complications, it may be time to contact an attorney to evaluate what legal options are available.

Source: ABC News, “Ky. Man says VA treatment caused frostbitten penis,” Oct. 2, 2012