Last week, the Iowa Supreme Court gave the green light to a lawsuit against a surgeon and the Iowa Heart Center centering on a lack of communication about the physician’s experience level. The plaintiff claims the surgeon should have explained it was his inaugural attempt at the procedure performed.
According to a report in the Knoxville Journal-Express, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s decision in favor of the surgeon and facility in a medical malpractice case filed by patient Alan Andersen, who underwent open heart surgery in 2004 at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. Although the Supreme Court effectively ended the specific malpractice charges, they did say Andersen had grounds to continue pursuing informed consent claims stemming from allegations that the surgeon neglected to adequately communicate his lack of experience.
The case was remanded to the district court to allow Anderson to seek damages from Sohit Khanna, MD, and Iowa Heart Center.
“You should know if a doctor has never done a complex procedure,” Andersen’s lawyer, Marc Harding, said following the ruling, the Des Moines Register reported.
The 2004 open-heart surgery on Andersen was ultimately unsuccessful, and the patient needed to undergo a heart transplant. Andersen pursued litigation, and it wound its way through the court system for years, with mistrials and other tangled decisions.
A jury trial in 2014 cleared Khanna of negligence in the case, but Anderson filed appeals on several grounds, including the informed consent dispute, which is the only part of his lawsuit still unresolved. The Iowa Supreme Court indicated the informed consent charges weren’t given proper attention in the district court proceeding.
The Journal-Express notes Iowa state law mandates practitioners communicate to patients “in general terms the nature and purpose of the procedure” and detail the risks.
“It is reasonable that anyone undergoing such a procedure would want to know his or her physician’s experience and training, or lack thereof, before consenting to such a procedure by that procedure,” Justice David Wiggins wrote in the majority opinion.
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