Posted on Feb 08, 2006
$2 million awarded in Jax medical malpractice suit
By William H. McMichael
Times staff writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The government lost yet another case involving medical malpractice at Jacksonville Naval Hospital Feb. 3 when a federal judge awarded $2 million to a military family after a woman’s uterus and ovaries were unnecessarily removed following a faulty diagnosis.
U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. ruled that Angela Burch, the wife of Army Maj. Daniel Burch and then a 32-year-old mother of two, was misdiagnosed, that doctors at the hospital undertook the June 12, 2000, surgery without her informed consent, and negligently managed her post-operative care.
The judgment, said Burch attorney Chad Roberts of Jacksonville, “is fair and appropriate.” Burch has declined to be interviewed; her husband is deployed to Korea and Afghanistan, Roberts said.
The decision marked the third time since August that a federal judge had ruled against the government in malpractice cases involving Jacksonville.
In August, a judge awarded a family $5.9 million after their son, suffering a severe asthma attack, was brought to the Jacksonville emergency room; the prescribed medications were administered late or not at all, leading to cardiac arrest and leaving the child essentially blind. And in November, a family was awarded $60.9 million after negligence during the birth of their son at Jacksonville left the boy blind and brain-dead.
The government is appealing both cases.
For six years before the surgery, Burch had been treated for various ailments, including Chronic Pelvic Pain and problems relieving herself, according to court papers. Her internist suspected that she had endometriosis, in which tissue that lines the uterus finds its way outside that organ, causing lesions and, sometimes, menstrual pain. The doctor referred her to specialists at Jacksonville Naval Hospital.
A urologist diagnosed Burch with interstitial cystitis, a disease of the bladder lining that would not require removal of the uterus and ovaries. A gynecologist, however, decided that Burch had the disease — inside her bladder, which experts said would be unlikely. Yet the Burches, Adams found, were told Burch had severe endometriosis in her abdomen.
A trained urologist examined Burch’s bladder at the outset of the hysterectomy procedure and found that the abnormal tissue inside was not endometriosis. The gynecologist later testified that the urologist had never told her what he’d found; his operative note, dictated that day, states, “Rule out interstitial cystitis.” Immediately afterward, the obstetrician removed Burch’s reproductive organs.
Yet, Adams found, “No endometriosis was ever documented pathologically on any of the tissues.” Her reproductive organs were found to be “perfectly normal and healthy,” he wrote.
“For the gynecologist to be going down one road at Naval Hospital Jacksonville and the urologist [to] be going down a different road … was indeed a breach of the prevailing standards of care,” Adams concluded.