Best of intentions

Dr. U understood Mr. B’s reaction and tried to soothe him.

 “I’m not your enemy,” he said calmly. “The cancer is. Yes, your life will be a little different now, but at least you will be alive.”


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But Mr. B was not appeased and sought the advice of a plaintiffs’ attorney. After researching squamous cell carcinoma, the lawyer felt confident that Mr. B had a winning case and commenced a lawsuit against Dr. U.

Dr. U’s insurance carrier assigned a defense attorney, who scheduled an initial consultation the following week. “In order to prepare for trial, we have to anticipate what the other side will say,” the lawyer began. “Are there other, less radical treatments for squamous cell carcinoma that might have worked here?”

“Well, there’s cryosurgery, laser treatment, and radiation, but none is particularly suitable for this part of the body,” Dr. U explained. “A penectomy was, unfortunately, the best option for my patient.”

“Okay,” said the attorney. “What about the fact that you didn’t wait to speak to the patient before performing the penectomy, or give him the chance to get a second opinion? Is this type of cancer so fast-moving that a few days would have made a difference to the patient’s health?”

“I suppose a few days might not, but there are, of course, risks associated with general anesthesia. I felt it was in the patient’s best interest not to undergo anesthesia again.”

The defense attorney rubbed his forehead and nodded. As the case progressed, he encouraged Dr. U to consider settling out of court. “I’d be happy to take the case to trial, if you desire, but I think a settlement would probably be best for all involved,” he said.

Dr. U eventually agreed. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.