Closing arguments are expected today in a medical malpractice trial involving a Eudora woman whose doctor removed the wrong ovary in a 2002 surgery.
Amy C. Miller, 32, is seeking more than $750,000 in damages in her lawsuit against Lawrence physician Carolyn Johnson, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology.
It's not disputed that Johnson accidentally removed Miller's left ovary instead of the right one on Oct. 18, 2002, when Miller came in for surgery to relieve severe pain on the right side of her pelvis.
"I thought it was the right ovary. I don't have an explanation for how that happened. : I made a mistake," Johnson testified Thursday in Douglas County District Court.
The question for jurors to decide is whether Johnson is legally at fault, and if so, how much Miller should receive in damages and expenses.
Such mistakes are common nationwide but underreported, according to a September article in the medical journal Archives of Surgery. The authors estimated there are from 1,200 to 2,700 surgeries per year that involve the wrong site on the body, wrong procedure or wrong patient.
"Despite a significant number of cases, reporting of (the cases) is virtually nonexistent, with reports in the lay press far more common than reports in the medical literature," an abstract of the article states. "Wrong-side/wrong-site, wrong-procedure, and wrong-patient adverse events, although rare, are more common than health care providers and patients appreciate."
Attorneys for Johnson admit the doctor fell below the "standard of care" for physicians, but they claim the mistake didn't change the course of Miller's treatment. Given her medical history and circumstances, they said, the left ovary would have required removal at some point.
They also deny that Miller suffered the kinds of damages she's claiming. Three weeks prior to the surgery, they argue, Miller told a doctor that she and her husband didn't want to have any more children. They've also called expert witnesses, including a psychologist who testified that Miller's diagnosed anxiety disorder can't be attributed to any specific incident.
After the surgery, Miller's pain on her right side didn't go away, and it wasn't until a sonogram that a doctor discovered she still had her right ovary. It was removed in a 2004 surgery.
Prevention of "wrong side" mistakes, the authors of the September medical journal article wrote, "requires new and innovative technologies, reporting of case occurrence, and learning from successful safety initiatives : while reducing the shame associated with these events."
At the time of the surgery, Johnson worked at Lawrence OB-GYN Specialists. She now works for Student Health Services at Kansas University's Watkins Memorial Health Center.
Miller is represented by attorneys William Skepnek and Trey Meyer. Johnson is represented by Bruce Keplinger and John Hicks of Overland Park.