The rate of hysterectomies is five times greater in the south in the U.S. and in Newfoundland than in the rest of North America. And, as it is in the U.S., the fox is guarding the hen house in Newfoundland.
On September 21, 2009 just four days after Sharon Virginelli’s court victory (Click on the link on the right under Previous Posts) of a $5M award for an “unnecessary” hysterectomy, it was ruled that a gynecologist in Gander, New Foundland, was not negligent in performing a hysterectomy that left a woman with a colostomy, put in intensive care for a month, and in the hospital for two months.
But Annie Ralph has not yet had her day in court. The no negligence finding was by Newfoundland and Labrador’s medical watchdog, the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Annie has filed a lawsuit (called a statement of claim in Newfoundland), against Dr. Doug Torraville and The Central Health Authority.
Annie entered the hospital for a hysterectomy three years ago, in October of 2006, expecting to be home in a few days. She was in intensive care for 28 days and in the hospital for two months. On the day of the surgery it was evident there were complications. Three days later she became very ill, and exploratory surgery revealed that her colon had been perforated. She has since undergone three surgeries in attempts to repair the damage to her colon and reverse a colostomy.
When the College of Physicians and Surgeons investigated her complaint against Torraville they determined that he was not negligent. The College said Ralph was warned that colon damage could be a complication during a hysterectomy. However being warned of a possible risk does not make acceptable the damage that Torraville inflicted on her by perforating her colon, not repairing it during the surgery, and putting her life at risk by not responding timely to her symptoms. Furthermore, did Torraville inform her of the life long, permanent consequences of hysterectomy? Did he inform her that her sex life would never be the same? That her vagina would be shortened? That hysterectomy would increase three-fold her risk of heart disease? It is unlikely those consequences of hysterectomy will even be mentioned when she gets her day in court, because they are losses women are not usually compensated for. You cannot see them. Unlike the infection that almost killed Annie Ralph, and unlike her colostomy bag, they are not documented in the medical record, and the damage is not visible. The defense’s expert’s witnesses in hysterectomy medical malpractice cases usually say “She making it up, it’s all in her head”.
Gynecologists get away with performing hysterectomies by not admitting that it is a damaging surgery. Because the female organs are internal, it is easy to deny what is not visible to the eye.
HERS will be monitoring and reporting the outcome of her case. If you were involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit, please share your experience. We all know how difficult it is to bring legal action against a doctor, particularly when in hysterectomy cases. Please post a comment to let Annie know you support her bringing this action against Doug Torraville and The Central Health Authority.