A man in Virginia went in for a colonoscopy with a plan: he would use his smartphone to record the doctor’s instructions, so he would be able to follow them exactly after his procedure. He accidentally recorded the entire examination, however, including everything that happened while he was sedated. This recording became the subject of a medical malpractice and defamation lawsuit against two doctors and their practices. Our team of malpractice lawyers details this unique case below.
The medical team in this case consisted of an anesthesiologist, a medical assistant, and a gastroenterologist who performed the colonoscopy. The gastroenterologist was dismissed from the case on the opening day of the trial.
The anesthesiologist, 42-yaer-old Tiffany Ingham, was recorded saying by far the most malicious comments about the patient. Among her unethical actions, she instructed the medical assistant to lie to the patient, wrote a false diagnosis of hemorrhoids on his medical chart, and called him horrible names while he was sedated. Upon hearing the recording on his phone, the patient filed suit.
After three days of trial the jury ordered Ingham and her practice to pay $500,000 to the patient. Ingham worked out of the Aisthesis anesthesia practice in Bethesda, Maryland. According to the Washington Post, Ingham no longer works there and has moved to Florida.
A spokesperson for Aisthesis apologized for Ingham’s conduct, confirming she no longer worked for the company and ensuring that all staff reviewed and reiterated their pledge to abide by a code of ethics.
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The jury awarded the patient $100,000 for defamation (the act of damaging someone’s good reputation) and $200,000 for medical malpractice. The jury also awarded him $200,000 in punitive damages, which are mean to punish the responsible party and hold them accountable for their actions. One of the jurors pointed to the defendants’ obvious guilt, as everything was recorded and was played back in court.
One of the most damaging acts of malpractice was when Ingham stated to the gastroenterologist that she was going to mark ‘hemorrhoids’ on the man’s medical chart even though he clearly did not suffer that condition.
Unfortunately, falsification of medical records is a possibility for any patient. In a typical medical malpractice case, however, this is not a common problem. Physicians and medical employees know that falsifying medical records is a felony crime independent of malpractice that can make a doctor vulnerable to extreme punitive damages. This is likely one of the factors motivating the jury to award the Virginia patient $200,000 in punitive damages.
Doctors who falsifying records risk punitive damages, a felony charge, and losing their medical license. It is thus quite rare for a physician to take this type of measure; when it does occur, it is usually in the course of a medical malpractice lawsuit. More often than not, the doctor is caught and the falsification only ends up strengthening the plaintiffs’ case.
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A somewhat similar claim was recently filed in California, on behalf of a patient who is recorded on video refusing a procedure that a doctor performed anyway. A relative was videotaping the woman as she gave birth. After pushing for about an hour, the doctor suggested she undergo an episiotomy, which is an incision to the perineum. The woman very clearly asked the doctor not to perform this procedure, though the doctor insisted.
The woman filed suit against the doctor, citing the video as proof that the procedure was done without her consent. She claims she now suffers from physical and emotional injuries along with trauma related to prior sexual assaults.
Informed consent is a critically important part of medical care. Patients must be fully educated on the risks and benefits of all their options, and must agree to any medical intervention performed on them. Women going through labor are, unfortunately, much more likely to have their right to informed consent violated.
If you or someone you love was seriously injured by a negligence medical provider, contact our team of malpractice attorneys immediately. We provide free case reviews to potential clients nationwide. Our firm has over 30 years of experience fighting on behalf of injured patients.