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Exploring a horrific story of medical negligence and what you should know about bad doctors.

We’ve all heard about medical procedures gone wrong, but most people never think it can happen to us. However, each year in the United States, medical malpractice lawsuits have cost hospitals more than $10 billion. Doctors are not infallible and some mistakes are made, but when it’s blatant it causes lives to be changed and in some cases, death is the result.

Here we examine a case involving medical malpractice, when a doctor removed a woman’s clitoris without consent.

What Happened?

A 52-year old Australian woman called Carolyn Dewaegeneire went to visit Dr A (whose full name is concealed for legal reasons) for a gynecological oncology consultation, upon the recommendation of her normal gynecologist on December 17th, 2001. She had already been diagnosed with lichen slerosus, a long-term skin problem that usually affects the genitals, years before the visit. The patient told Dr A that her medical condition had so far not responded to all the previous recommended treatments, which included antifungal medications, estrogen and testosterone, antibacterial and steroid drugs. Dr A did an examination of the lady’s exterior genitalia and noted a whitish discoloration in the anterior vulva which was consistent with lichen sclerosus.

Also noted during the examination were small cracks in the discolored area and around the perineal area. Dr A recommended a round of clobetasal for approximately 30 days and then a follow-up visit would need to be performed.

Follow Up Visit

On January 3rd, 2002, Carolyn Dewaegeneire went back to Dr A for a follow-up visit. Her condition had not improved with clobetasol and she said her vulva was more irritated and itchy than before. The physician did another physical examination and saw scratch marks around the labia minora and majora, as well as a white discoloration around the perineal area.

On January 14th, 2002, the doctor performed a simple vulvectomy. The procedure involved removing the superficial layers of skin around the labia minor and the anterior portion of the labia majora, the clitoral hood and the posterior area between the introitus and perianal area. The full thickness of the tissue was not excised and the doctor reported he did not remove the clitoris at that time. The surgery appeared to have gone well.

So far, what you seem to see here is a doctor who was thorough in his treatment and diagnosis — right? The story does not end here, however.

Next Appointment

The patient’s next appointment with Dr A took place on February 28th, 2002. Dewaegeneire reported no pain or vaginal discharge and she did not have any complaints about her genitourinary or gastrointestinal systems. Dr A noted that the patient was healing well except for some oozing from the wound. Because of this, he told her to rest her pelvis and to avoid sexual intercourse, touching the area or using any tampons. 

He advised her to return for another visit in a month, but she didn’t and she missed a follow-up scheduled for June 6th, 2002. Consequently, the lady went and visited another gynecologist on June 8th and June 27th. At that time, she was being treated with metronidazole for a "vaginal problem".

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