A Kentucky truck-driver, 64-year-old Phillip Seaton, went into surgery to remove his inflamed foreskin in what began as a simple circumcision. Dr. John Patterson, the surgeon, began the procedure and saw that Seaton’s penis was riddled with cancer. He amputated more than just the foreskin, and Seaton awoke one full inch shorter than when he arrived. And Extenz wasn’t going to help.
He and his short-changed wife sued Patterson for malpractice, arguing that he had been mutilated and unmanned without his consent, and that Patterson should have performed only the circumcision, sewn him up, and consulted with the truck-driver and his wife regarding their options.
Clever law suit. We can’t blame the lawyer who took it on: a sawed-off penis is a good bet to get jury sympathy. All that is required for a lawsuit to be ethical from a lawyer’s perspective is for there to be a good-faith and reasonable belief that the suit could prevail under the law. This one could have. Generally it’s a good idea, and only polite, to ask before cutting off a piece of someone’s penis. I know it’s the rule in our house.
I can blame the Seatons, however, who chose to sue a doctor for following proper medical ethics and doing what was necessary to ensure Seaton’s survival. They can hardly argue that Dr. Patterson’s judgment was flawed—the rest of Seaton’s cancerous organ had to be amputated later. The couple, which should have been grateful, chose greed over fairness and responsibility.
Experts testified that Patterson’s quick action probably saved Seaton’s life, but instead of rewarding the alert surgeon with heartfelt thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Seaton sought a big payday in damages. And if the doctor hadn’t amputated part of the cancerous penis and it had to be taken completely off later? They would have sued him for NOT amputating, arguing that taking one inch sooner could have saved the whole enchilada later! If Phillip Seaton had died of rapidly-spreading penis cancer after Patterson declined to make the unkindest cut at the earliest possible time, then his widow would have sued for more than 16 million. This couple, in short (sorry Phillip!) was going to sue no matter what. That missing penis was their ticket to Easy Street. A disgusting ticket, admittedly, but a ticket nonetheless.
That’s not all. The Seaton’s lawsuit, if successful, would have resulted in the deaths of many future patients, whose surgeons would be then afraid to do what was necessary for their survival when cancer was discovered mid-operation, lest the doctors get sued by other horrified and greedy individuals waking up without kidneys, legs or other cancerous parts of their anatomy. Fortunately for you, me and the medical profession, the Kentucky jury rejected the Seaton’s suit for what it was: greed, bad policy, dangerous precedent, and outrageous ingratitude.