COMMENTARY

Docs Raise Money for Candidates; Why Mega Payouts Rise; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

January 22, 2015

In This Article

Partial Appendectomy Leads to Negligence Verdict

After only an hour's deliberation, a North Carolina jury last month found that a surgeon had acted negligently when he performed an emergency appendectomy on a pregnant woman, reports the Times-News in a December 18th story.[4]

In 2009, the surgeon—Andrew Hearn, formerly of Alamance Regional Medical Center, in Burlington, North Carolina—performed the emergency procedure on Asma Hajeh, who was in the early stages of her pregnancy. Testifying at trial on his own behalf, Dr Hearn said that he had been forced during the procedure to act quickly in order to save the patient's baby and to avoid complications from her other medical conditions.

But in his haste, plaintiffs argue, Dr Hearn left a 4-cm portion of the patient's appendix behind, which later triggered a second episode of appendicitis. A second surgery to address this new area of inflammation caused Hajeh to give birth 4 months prematurely, requiring her newborn daughter to spend nearly 6 months in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit and to sustain developmental disabilities.

Hajeh and her husband argued that Dr Hearn had violated the medical standard of care when he failed to remove his patient's entire appendix. Expert witnesses testifying for the plaintiffs agreed, noting that the portion of the appendix left behind after the first surgery had become inflamed, necessitating the second appendectomy.

The parties agreed to a settlement on January 5, but details weren't available at press time. Dr Hearn may wind up in court again, however, with regard to an unrelated matter. According to the Times-News, he's one of several defendants named in a lawsuit alleging that an improperly placed stent damaged a woman's heart in 2011.[5]

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