On Friday a Philadelphia jury awarded $20.5 million to the family of an 18 year old who died following liposuction surgery. According to 6abc.com,
The liposuction was done on the teen's chin, abdomen and flanks. The family's civil suit charged that a blood vessel in Amy Fledderman's neck was severed during surgery, and that the plastic surgeon realized too late she was in trouble. The doctor's office was not licensed by the state Department of Health, and his liposuction privileges at Main Line Health Hospitals had been restricted, the plaintiffs said. The plastic surgeon, in court filings, said that Fledderman had a difficult time emerging from anesthesia. The nurse anesthetist said she died after developing a rare fat embolism.
I don't know any more about the details of this sad event from seven years ago. $20.5 million is an enormous amount of money. If the surgeon maxed out his malpractice insurance policy it will cover the first $1 million of it, leaving the remaining $19.5 million to come from everything else he (or the nurse) owns or will ever own (depending on state and national laws).
Was the doctor horribly negligent in caring for this young woman? I don't know. Was this just a freak event that could not have been prevented except for not performing the surgery? I don't know. If we are to have faith in the American courts, we must assume that the former is true, otherwise the doctor and nurse have had their lives destroyed for no fault of their own.
What I do know is that nothing will ever bring that 18 year old girl back, but massive awards like this can never be paid off during any doctor's lifetime. This is a tragic case for all involved.
What do you think about awards like this? I am interested in what my readers think about these multimillion dollar judgements against hospitals, doctors, and nurses. As a physician, I have my own beliefs, partly because the spectre of a lawsuit always hangs over the head of every doctor, no matter how hard he or she works to give his or her patients the absolute best and safest care. Some of the finest doctors I know, however, have been sued, many more than once.