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Amputation Lawsuit: Doctor Surprised To Find Cancer

Tue, 08/23/2011 - 5:40am

Bruce Schreiner, AP

A Kentucky doctor said Monday that he saved a truck driver's life when he amputated part of the man's penis after discovering a rare and deadly cancer, but the man told a jury he wanted to escape from the hospital when he learned it was removed without his knowledge. The truck driver, Phillip Seaton, 64, is suing Dr. John Patterson, who performed the 2007 surgery that was initially meant to be a simple circumcision to relieve inflammation.

"What I saw was not a penis. What I saw was cancer," Patterson, a Frankfort urologist, testified in Shelby County Circuit Court. Patterson said he removed less than an inch of Seaton's penis. The rest of the penis was amputated by another doctor later, said Patterson's lawyer, Clay Robinson. Seaton's wife, Deborah, is also a plaintiff in the suit, which seeks unspecified damages for "loss of service, love and affection."

In earlier testimony, Phillip Seaton described the moments after being told part of his penis had been removed. "I pulled the dressing down, and I didn't see nothing," Seaton said under questioning by his attorney, Kevin George. "Then I came out of the restroom and I said, 'I'm getting the hell out of this damn hospital.'"

Patterson testified the cancer prevented him from inserting a catheter into Seaton's urethra, and he was concerned about the possibility of kidney damage from urinary retention. Although Deborah Seaton was in the hospital waiting room, the doctor said he did not consult her because she had not accompanied her husband to office visits or into the pre-operation area, which he thought was unusual. "My impression was she would not be someone I would ask what he would want," Patterson testified.

Deborah Seaton testified that if the doctor had consulted her after finding the cancer, she would have advised him to halt the surgery and wake up her husband. "It's his body," she said. "He should have a say in it." Phillip Seaton had earlier testified about his emotional state since the surgery, saying he was a "bad case." "I didn't have no say in it," he testified. "I wasn't told what had to be done. It was just done."

Seaton testified that Patterson had told him he would cut foreskin during the circumcision and described it as "more or less in and out." He said he had even joked with the doctor about the procedure. During opening arguments, Robinson said Seaton had before the surgery initialed a document authorizing treatment in unforeseen circumstances. George said the document had been read to Seaton because he cannot read.

The eight-woman, six-man jury was shown graphic images early in the day. George presented four photographs of Seaton's groin saying, "You can see there's nothing there." He also told jurors that Seaton "doesn't feel like a man" anymore. Robinson offered up a photograph of the cancerous tip of a penis — not Seaton's.

Seaton's brother, David Seaton, testified that Phillip Seaton has been depressed and angry since the surgery. "The spark is gone out of his life. He used to be such a happy person," David Seaton testified.

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