Our client was a 29 year old female who presented to the hospital for a laparoscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, and posterior repair under the care of an obstetrician/gynecologist. During the procedure the OBGYN attempted to place a weighted speculum into our client’s vagina. The speculum slipped out and fell to the floor. The OBGYN asked for a new one and reportedly was told that there were no more and that a dirty one would have to be sterilized using an autoclaving machine. An autoclave sterilizes items by subjecting them to high pressure, high temperature steam for about 15-20 minutes. When items come out of an autoclave they are extremely hot and should be subjected to a cool down period before use. In this case, however, the nurse took the speculum directly from the autoclave and handed it to the OBGYN for use in the surgery. The hot weighted speculum upon insertion caused our client severe 2nd and 3rd degree burns to her vagina, perineal area, and bilateral inter buttocks. During the surgery, the OBGYN was not notified of the burns though they were noted to be present by the doctor’s staff. The nursing staff applied Silvadene cream in the operating room to treat the blisters. In recovery, our client complained of pain being caused not by the incision, but by the blisters. The nursing staff, however, elected not to properly measure and assess our client’s burns even though they were draining fluid. Our client was discharged the next day with prescriptions for Silvadine, Percocet and Colace, but with no instructions as to the care of the wounds on her vagina and buttocks.
Our client has incurred tremendous pain that affects every aspect of her life. She is unable to sit for long periods of time, which causes problems in her job as a data entry clerk. The pain from the wounds affects her sleep because she has to alternate positions throughout the night to relieve the pressure. The scars are extremely sensitive to the temperature, and she is limited on the type of clothing she wears due to the friction of the fabric on her wounds. She is very self conscious of her appearance and the scarring these burns have caused. Both intercourse and cleaning herself after a bowel movement are painful to her. Moreover, she had to undergo medical care and treatments for these wounds for over a year. The Medical Review panel ruled that the hospital had the responsibility to provide the OBGYN with sterilized and safe tools, and that they had caused our client’s burns to her vagina and buttocks. Todd Townsley was able to recover and satisfactory settlement for this client.