Patient dies after prostatectomy; is his urologist at fault?
Plaintiff’s expert claims use of laser caused tissue breakdown resulting in fistula
A 67-year-old New York man underwent a prostatectomy in 2011. The procedure was done laparoscopically to address an enlargement of the prostate. He subsequently developed a recto-urethral fistula and, a few months later, he underwent an ileostomy. The patient died the following year, but his death was not related to his fistula or its residual effects.
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A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the man’s estate and alleged the urologist failed to properly treat the patient. The expert opined that the patient should not have undergone this procedure and that the laser caused a breakdown of tissue, which decreased the vascular flow in the surrounding area that resulted in the fistula.
The urologist’s expert opined that the procedure produced minimal destruction of tissue and concluded that the procedure did not reach the area that developed the fistula. He also opined that the procedure was safer than transurethral resection of the prostate. The jury returned a defense verdict.
LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: In this case, it came out in testimony that the patient had previously undergone radiation treatment to a cancerous region of the prostate, and it was alleged that the radiation had compromised the tissue in the surrounding area. This pre-existing damage could have contributed to the fistula and the need for ileostomy.