Former truck driver Phillip Seaton of Kentucky is suing the doctor who amputated his penis after he went in for a circumcision. The doctor, finding his penis riddled with cancer, decided to take it off because Seaton, who is illiterate, signed a document saying he could.
The consent form stating that the doctor was allowed to do what was needed once Seaton was under anesthesia was apparently part of the packet of information he initialed when he went into the hospital for the circumcision. The doctor who did the amputation felt he was saving his life.
On the stand today, Seaton said when he woke from surgery, the doctor spoke to him:
He said, "I got good news and bad news. The bad news is you had cancer, the good news is I had to cut some of your penis off" ... I got up out of bed, went to the restroom, and looked to see what he was talking about, and I pulled the dressing down, and I didn't see nothing. Then I come out of the restroom and said I'm getting the hell out of this damn hospital.
For Seaton, the result has been an altered life in which he feels like less of a man and cannot be intimate with his wife anymore. And while my heart breaks for him, it's also his own fault. If he had run into someone with his truck after running a stop sign, he couldn't claim his illiteracy as a defense. So why can he sue the doctor who saved his life using the same claim?
If you don't understand something, don't sign! It's that simple. Besides, realistically, what were his options? Had the doctor revived him, told him the bad news, and given him his options, would he have really refused surgery just because he wanted to keep his penis? He may very well have died.
It's a horrible story, to be sure. "I didn't have no say in it," he testified. And all of our hearts go out to him, but the fact is, he probably would have made that same decision. If he didn't want doctors making those decisions, he should have asked for help with the paperwork. Unfortunately not being able to read doesn't excuse a person from their signature or initialing. And if it did, what then? Doctors would have no freedom. Anyone going into surgery would be forced to prove they can read.
The fact is, this man's story is heartbreaking, but the hospital doesn't owe him money. In fact, he likely saved his life.
Do you think he should win?
Image via The U.S. Army/Flickr