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Doctors Disagree On Penis Removal

Wed, 08/24/2011 - 5:46am

Bruce Schreiner, AP

Doctors called to testify in the civil trial of a Kentucky urologist who amputated part of a man's penis without consulting him, differed on whether it was necessary to remove the cancerous portion immediately upon making the discovery on the operating table. "I couldn't identify any emergency situation that dictated an amputation," Dr. David Benson, a 25-year urologist called as a witness for the plaintiffs, said on the second day of the trial in Shelby County Circuit Court.

Phillip and Deborah Seaton of Waddy are seeking undisclosed damages from Dr. John Patterson of Frankfort for not consulting them before the 2007 amputation. Benson said that when Patterson found a cancerous lesion on Seaton's penis during routine circumcision surgery, he should have taken a biopsy and discussed options with the family before taking further action. He said removing a man's penis is the "most psychologically debilitating" procedure and patients need to be evaluated to see if they can cope.

But Dr. David Paulson, the former head of Duke Medical Center's urology program, testified for the defense that Patterson had followed the proper standard of care in a life-threatening situation. Paulson said it would have been medically risky for Patterson to interrupt the surgery to consult Seaton's wife, citing Phillip Seaton's sleep apnea as a concern. On Monday, Patterson testified the cancer prevented him from inserting a catheter into Seaton's urethra, heightening the possibility of kidney damage from urinary retention. Paulson said the cancer found during surgery had likely been there for 18 to 24 months.

"It's just so characteristic you can't miss it," said Paulson. 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. Patterson, called to the stand Tuesday by his attorney, said there had been no indication before surgery that Seaton was afflicted with deadly penile cancer.

Effectively repeating his testimony from Monday, the doctor said what began as routine surgery to relieve inflammation changed dramatically when he cut away the foreskin and found a diseased organ that wasn't recognizable as a penis.

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